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THE LAST DAYS 
OF TOLSTOY 



BY 



VLADIMIR TCHERTKOFF 



TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN BY 

NATHALIE A. DUDDINGTON 




LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN 



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Printed in Great Britain 



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CONTENTS 



FAQS 

Introduction ix 

Public opinion demands that facts with regard to 
Tolstoy's going away should be revealed — The 
conditions of Tolstoy's life were a test of his con- 
sistency — Why is it necessary to publish the cir- 
cumstances of his going away ? — The importance of 
Tolstoy's example — ^Misrepresentation of the causes 
of his going away — The moral duty of his friends 
to defend his memory — My task. 



PART I 

WHY TOLSTOY DID NOT LEAVE HIS HOME . 1 
(Letter to H. Dosev) 

Dosev's mistake, common to many — Tolstoy's true 
motives — His independence of the opinion of men — 
The limit of his yielding — In order to go away he had 
to feel the necessity for doing so — It was easier to go 
than to remain — Tolstoy's sufferings at Yasnaya 
Polyana (from his intimate diary) — The mistake 
of passing censure upon his life at Yasnaya — ^He 
fulfilled that which God required of him — His love 
for his wife and his confidence in her — His self- 
sacrifice for her sake — ^We must believe in his con- 
scientiousness — ^The heroism of his life in his 
family, 

PART II 

WHY TOLSTOY WENT AWAY 

Chapter I. — The conditions of life at 

Yasnaya Polyana .... 18 

Wealthy surroundings — False position in the eyes 
of men — Spiritual break with his wife. 



vi CONTENTS 

Chapter II. — Change for the worse in his 

wife's attitude to him ... 26 

Change for the worse in the conditions of life at 
Yasnaya with regard to the management of the 
estate, to the relations with the peasants, and in 
his wife's attitude to him — Tolstoy gives up landed 
property — His readiness to go away and the causes 
of his delay in making a final decision. 

Chapter III. — The history of the will . 82 

Tolstoy's attitude to property in general and to 
literary property in particiilar — ^His differences with 
his wife on that score — Tolstoy's firmness in re- 
nouncing the copyright of his works — ^Hia wife's 
opposition — Short history of the drawing up of the 
will. 

Chapter IV. — Intervals of rest — in other 

people's houses .... 48 

Mental and physical revival — Creative work. 

Chapter V. — The last period ... 52 

Summer of 1910 — Period of suffering that under- 
mined his health. 

Chapter VI. — ^Mental agony ... 58 

Tolstoy's disappointment at the impossibility of 
awakening his wife's spiritual consciousness — 
Recognition that his further stay at Yasnaya 
Polyana is unnecessary — The harm that his stay- 
ing there did to Sofya Andreyevna. 

Chapter VII. — ^The night of Tolstoy's going 

AWAY 63 

The last touch — Preparations and departure — 
Entries in the diary. 

Chapter VIII. — Tolstoy's relation to his 

wife ...... 67 

Letters to her in 1897 and after his departure — 
Reasons why he did not wish to see her. 



CONTENTS vii 

FAOE 

Chapter IX. — ^The motives that decided his 

GOING AWAY ..... 78 

The last straw — ^Mistaken judgments about 
Tolstoy's going away. 

Chapter X. — ^The significance of Tolstoy's 

GOING away and OF THE WHOLE SPIRIT- 
UAL ACHIEVEMENT OF HIS LIFE . . 86 

The one desire of his life, to do the will of God — 
The inevitability of the end. 



PART III 

TOLSTOY'S ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS . 94 

The growth of his inner consciousness during the 
second period of his life. Extracts from the diary 
for 1884 — Differences with his wife — On the border 
of despair — Feeling of solitude — Memory of his 
mother and his longing for her (1906) — Striving 
after God. Extracts from diary and letters from 
1889-1910— Family trials— The cross of his life, 
till the end — ^His words about Sofya Andreyevna 
and consciousness of his guilt (from a conversation 
with, and the letters to Tchertkoff) — The mystery 
of another's soul — Tolstoy's thoughts that give a 
general meaning to his interpretation of suSering 
(" The Reading-Oycle," " The Way of Life "). 



Appendix I 139 

The inevitable one-sidedness of quotations made 
from Tolstoy's writings for the piirposes of the 
present narrative — His many-sided personality — 
His power of controlling his sufierings and his 
natural joy of life — The attainment of the true 
good. 

Appendix II . . . . . . 143 

My personal attitude to Tolstoy's wife — The ex- 
perience and observation of thirty years — My task 
is not to censure anyone but to vindicate truth. 



INTRODUCTION 

So much misunderstanding, misrepresenta- 
tion, partiality and personal prejudice has 
accumulated in connection with the last 
years and days of Leo Nikolaevitch Tolstoy's 
life, that before starting upon this first 
detailed account of his " going away " I 
find myself compelled, at the risk of wearying 
the reader's patience, to begin with a some- 
what lengthy introduction. 

Now that Tolstoy's wife ^ is dead, the 
chief obstacle to revealing the true causes 
of his going away from Yasnaya Polyana 
is removed. Like other friends of Leo 
Nikolaevitch, I have said nothing for ten 
years. During this time many people, some 
of them particularly deserving of confidence 
and respect, have asked me to publish all 
that I know about this event. As an instance 
I will quote a letter from Mrs. Mayo, a 
well-known English authoress and admirer 
of Tolstoy.2 

1 Sofya Andreyevna Tolstoy, who died in November, 
1919. In Appendix II, at the end of the present 
volume, I explain what attitude towards Sofya 
Andreyevna I adopt in the present narrative. 

^ Isabella Fyvie Mayo. 

ix 



X INTRODUCTION 

" Old Aberdeen, 

Scotland, 
Jan. 17, 1914. 

" Dear Mr. Tchertkoff, 

" Some of us in Great Britain feel 
that the time has come when it is highly 
desirable that we should hear the story of 
the tragedy which beset the last years of 
Leo Tolstoy's life, from one who was in 
its scene. 

" We can understand and respect your 
reticence up to this point. But now so 
many rumours, derogatory to Tolstoy, and 
therefore likely to diminish the weight of 
his teaching, are spreading over the world, 
and seem to be the subject of a very active 
propaganda even in this country. 

" Hitherto, however, we have heard little 
or nothing save from those who were notori- 
ously out of sympathy with his principles, 
and who did not scruple to put obstacles in 
the way of the carrying out of his last will. 

" Further, it has been unfortunate that 
the Life of Tolstoy best known in Britain 
is the work of one who, far from being a 
disciple, is not even a neutral or impartial 
recorder, but is in flat antagonism to Tolstoy's 
leading principle of non-resistance to evil 
by violence. 



INTRODUCTION xi 

" Therefore we appeal to you, Tolstoy's 
personal friend and fellow-worker, that you 
should let us hear the facts of the case as 
you saw them. 

" Some of us feel that Tolstoy's own works 
explain enough. I remember when I read 
the last page of the paper ' Living and Dying,' 
in his Three Days in the Village, written 
only a few months before his death, I realised 
that Tolstoy's spiritual anguish was being 
strained almost beyond endurance. 

" Again, I repeat that we all deeply respect 
the reticence you have hitherto maintained. 
But there is a time to speak and a time to 
keep silent. History shows us again and 
again how impossible it is to unearth the 
truth when eye-witnesses are gone. Thus are 
engendered the most misleading and mis- 
chievous myths. 

" I trust that you will give this matter 
your deepest consideration, and I remain, 
" Yours with much regard, 
(Mrs.) " Isabella Fyvie Mayo." 

I have received many such requests, both 
spoken and written, from many different 
people, some of whom were noted for their 
tact and reserve, and whose opinion there- 
fore carried special weight in this delicate 



xii INTRODUCTION 

matter. Nevertheless I could not make up 
my mind. 

I feel that the time has come at last to 
speak openly of what I know. I approach 
my task with no light heart, but with a full 
consciousness of the moral responsibility 
which it involves. In doing so I have but 
one wish : to say nothing that is super- 
fluous or out of date, and to keep back 
nothing which I feel it my duty to Leo 
Nikolaevitch and to other people to reveal. 

In Leo Nikolaevitch Tolstoy's life two 
circumstances deserve special notice. In 
the first place, the immediate external con- 
ditions in which he was placed — ^that is, 
all he had to endure in his family life and 
home surroundings — seemed to be specially 
designed as a severe trial for him. If some- 
one wanted to put to a practical test Leo 
Nikolaevitch's sincerity, consistency and 
spiritual strength in carrying out his con- 
ception of life, he could not have placed him 
in conditions more suited for the purpose 
than those in which Leo Nikolaevitch lived 
for the last thirty years of his life. Secondly, 
it is remarkable that Leo Nikolaevitch bore 
this trial irreproachably, though it was more 
severe than anyone unacquainted with his 
intimate life could suppose. 



INTRODUCTION xiii 

There was a time when all educated 
Russians imagined, in their spiritual blind- 
ness, that Tolstoy's " easy " life in Yasnaya 
Polyana was a fresh example of the incon- 
sistency with which great thinkers fail to 
apply to themselves the lofty truths they 
preach. Tolstoy's enemies rejoiced, and 
regarded his supposed inconsistency as a 
proof of his theory being inapplicable in 
practice. His friends found extenuating 
circumstances for his guilt, and thought that 
we should be grateful to Tolstoy for the 
spiritual food he had given us, and not be 
too hard upon his human weaknesses. And 
yet during all this time, with a firmness which 
nothing could shake, and sometimes at the 
cost of incredible suffering, Leo Nikolaevitch 
was carrying on the most heroic work of 
self-abnegation, consistency and self-restraint 
of which man is capable. He realised in his 
actions and in all his personal life that which 
he preached, and both in his life and his 
death he exemplified the complete renuncia- 
tion of all personal desires and the whole- 
hearted service of God, in which he believed 
the purpose and the meaning of human life 
to consist. 

I am well aware that this assertion may 
appear to be an exaggeration. Some readers 



xiv INTRODUCTION 

will be inclined to ascribe my words to the 
natural enthusiasm of a " Tolstoyan " for 
his " teacher." Fortunately, however, I 
have at my disposal a wealth of documentary 
material which irrefutably confirms the truth 
of my words. I hope, in due time, to publish 
this material as well as my own observations 
and facts known to me with regard to Leo 
Nikolaevitch's family life as a whole. 

Written documents which I have in my 
keeping sufficiently reveal the general char- 
acter of the conditions in which Leo Niko- 
laevitch had to live. But if there were 
only these data to go upon, one would have 
to resign oneself to inevitable blanks and 
omissions. The readers would have to treat 
these documents like learned investigators 
treat their historical material — ^that is, to fill 
up the blanks with their own surmises, to 
connect the disconnected, and to reconcile 
contradictions in accordance with their 
personal predilections and the degree of 
their inventiveness. Among the extensive 
material relating to Tolstoy's life there 
already exist, and will no doubt appear 
in the future, communications which more 
or less misrepresent the facts and even 
contain downright falsehoods. To the 
malicious joy of Tolstoy's enemies there 



INTRODUCTION xv 

has already accumulated a whole literature 
which depicts his personality, his life, 
his " going away " and his death in a totally 
perverted manner, and is full of shapieless 
slander. 

Under such circumstances, the future 
biographers of Tolstoy would have — as is 
usually the case — to steer a middle course 
between all the contradictory data in their 
possession. In doing so they will not be 
able to avoid the misleading influence of 
the unreliable documents — and this, indeed, 
is already noticeable in some of the recent 
biographies. In view of this, it is particularly 
important that some contemporary of Tolstoy 
who was particularly intimate with him, 
enjoyed his full confidence and had a first- 
hand knowledge of the true conditions of 
his home life, should leave a consecutive 
exposition of all the relevant and well- 
authenticated facts. It is desirable, too, 
that this person should not be one of Tolstoy's 
relatives, and would therefore be free from 
all family prejudices and predilections. 

Not in virtue of any personal merits, but 
only owing to certain external circumstances, 
I satisfy these conditions, and cannot help 
feeling that fate itself lays upon me the moral 
duty of undertaking such a work. 
b 



xvi INTRODUCTION 

A detailed account is necessary not only 
for the sake of " historical accuracy " in the 
biography of the great man; it is needed 
in the interests of humanity in order to pre- 
serve in all its intact wholeness the striking 
example of Tolstoy's life; for this life incon- 
testably proves the possibility of carrying 
out in practice the lofty truths to which 
he gave verbal expression. 

It would be a mistake to agree with only 
such truths as are proclaimed by men who 
perfectly realise in the practice of their own 
lives that which they preach. It is part 
of our nature that a man may be clearly 
conscious of truths so lofty that it is beyond 
his power to put them into practice. They 
may be practised by his contemporaries 
who have more strength than he has, or by 
future generations who will have attained 
a higher degree of moral perfection. But 
it is also part of our nature that the example 
of a man who realises in his own conduct, 
in spite of any privations and suffering, and 
even at the cost of his life, that which he 
preaches, always arouses the enthusiastic 
sympathy of others, and becomes a powerful 
help and encouragement to many who strive 
to follow the ideals proclaimed by such a man. 

Even if in his personal life Tolstoy were 



INTRODUCTION xvii 

inconsistent and failed to live up to his own 
convictions, he would still deserve our pro- 
found gratitude for the enormous, immeasur- 
able impetus which, by his intellectual work, 
he has given to the development of human 
consciousness. But it has pleased destiny 
to create in the person of Tolstoy not only 
a thinker of genius, but also a man of great 
moral heroism. It is therefore very im- 
portant to preserve the most exact informa- 
tion about his personal life, especially about 
that side of it which called for most self- 
sacrifice on his part and made him suffer 
most in carrying out his principles in practice. 
Finally, I was led to undertake the present 
work by my personal relation to Leo Nikolae- 
vitch. Our intimate friendship of many 
years' standing, my ardent devotion and 
love for him in his lifetime, and now my 
devotion to his memory, infinitely dear 
to me, my respect and reverence for the 
Divine Principle which expressed itself in 
him with such power and purity — all make 
me eager to do my utmost to preserve for 
men in all its striking, imtamished brilliance 
the truth about the greatness of his moral 
achievement. Since there are people to whom 
this truth is unpleasant or damaging, and 
who seek to pervert or conceal it in every way, 



xviii INTRODUCTION 

making wild inventions about Leo Nikolae- 
vitch, or demanding that truth shall not be 
revealed, surely it behoves his most intimate 
friends to champion his memory and preserve 
his noble image from pollution or distortion. 
Now that Leo Nikolaevitch's widow, for 
whose sake we have refrained from publish- 
ing the facts, is no longer alive, it is not 
only permissible for us, his friends, to come 
forward in his defence but, in view of all 
that has happened, it is our bounden duty 
to tell the truth about his life and death, 
so as to counteract all the slanders that have 
been set going by his enemies.^ 

^ In this connection I venture to quote here a small 
extract from my article entitled " Should the truth 
about Tolstoy's going away be told ? " (published in 
the magazine {Tolstoy's Voice and Unity, N 3 (15)). 

" The conditions under which Leo Nikolaevitch 
Tolstoy left Yasnaya Polyana and died on the journey 
at a railway station were, as everyone knows, quite 
exceptional. And yet, though it happened ten years 
ago, mankind does not to this day know the true 
causes of this event. Both in Russia and abroad the 
actual reasons that drove a man like Leo Tolstoy to 
leave his family are unknown, and so everyone invented 
his own reasons and published all sorts of fictions. 
Some have maintained that Tolstoy longed to be 
received once more into the Orthodox Church and 
wanted to save his soul in a monastery. Some insisted 
that as he grew old his intellect grew so weak that he 
did not know what he was doing, and, instinctively 
feeling the approach of death, went off without any 
definite purpose. Others observed with satisfaction 
that at the end of his life, at any rate, Tolstoy succeeded 



INTRODUCTION xix 

I have also heard another argument from 
persons who would have preferred, for the 
sake of their vanity, that Tolstoy's family 
tragedy should have remained secret. They 
said that Leo Nikolaevitch himself never 
defended himself against those who slandered 
him. He preferred to bear the censure of 



in overcoming his attachment to his family and his 
bondage to wealthy surroundings, and in doing what 
in accordance with his convictions he ought to have 
done long ago. Others, on the contrary, regretted that 
he had not the strength to endure the trials of his home 
life to the end, and that, revolted at the behaviour of 
his family, he lost his spiritual balance and failed in 
his duty to his relatives. There is no enumerating 
all the guesses and suppositions that were spread by 
people who attempted during the last ten years to 
solve the riddle of Tolstoy's ' going away,' or who 
intentionally perverted the truth. Quite recently in 
his book on Tolstoy (which has already been translated 
into foreign languages), Maxim Gorky, with hjs usual 
amazing rashness in dealing with subjects which he 
does not know or fails to understand, thought it fit, 
by the side of other absurdities about Tolstoy, to 
inform the world that Leo Nikolaevitch left Yasnaya 
Polyana ' with the despotic intention of increasing the 
oppressive influence of his religious ideas ' and ' com- 
pelling people to accept them,' and that he, Maxim 
Gorky, does not approve of such behaviour. 

" I owe it to my friend's memory to show how ill- 
grounded are the accusations and the slanders with 
which men, misinformed as to the circumstances of his 
life, or opposed to his theories, tried to besmirch his 
name. I naturally want to do my utmost to reinstate 
in all its beauty and purity the spiritual image of him 
to whom I am indebted so much for his love and moral 
assistance." 



XX INTRODUCTION 

public opinion rather than reveal the painful 
conditions of his life and allow others to be 
blamed instead of himself. And therefore, 
they say, after his death his friends ought 
to follow his example. 

It is impossible to agree with this. One 
may well understand that Leo Nikolaevitch 
concealed his sufferings. He drew strength 
and derived satisfaction from the conscious- 
ness that he was living not before men, 
but before God. Far from standing in need 
of human approbation, he thought that 
unjust condemnation on the part of men was 
good for him in so far as it forcibly drove him 
to that road upon which one has nothing 
but the voice of God in one's own soul for 
guidance. But does this mean that we too 
must say nothing about Tolstoy's heroic 
life and conceal his moral rectitude now, 
when he isnot among us ? 

We have not, cannot have, and ought not 
to have, the same motives which in this 
respect influenced him. It is good for me, 
for my soul, to be unjustly condemned owing 
to the fact that I do not want to justify 
myself and am sparing the real culprit. But 
there is nothing good in my being silent when 
another person is unjustly condemned or 
slandered in my presence, while I have the 



INTRODUCTION xxi 

means of proving his innocence. Leo Niko- 
laevitch had grounds for not justifying him- 
self before men; but we have no grounds 
whatever for conceahng that which does 
justify him. In the present case we ought 
to be guided, not by the thought of ourselves 
in his place if he were alive, but by the imme- 
diate voice of our own heart and reason, 
which demands that we should defend the 
friend whose memory is being reviled before 
our eyes. 

These are the reasons that have led me to 
undertake the biographical work of which 
the present narrative of Tolstoy's going 
away forms, so to speak, only one separate 
chapter. 

All the events of cosmic life are so inextric- 
ably interwoven that, were it possible to 
change in the past some one of them, even 
the apparently most insignificant, it would 
be necessary to change at the same time 
absolutely all the other concurrent and 
preceding circumstances. Therefore in order 
to investigate fully the conditions which 
have occasioned this or that event in a 
person's life, one would have to consider 
the whole past history of mankind, both the 
external and the internal or spiritual. And 
since it is impossible even in thought to 



xxii INTRODUCTION 

embrace all this infinite number of facts, 
it must be admitted that it is utterly beyond 
our power to determine all the causes that 
have produced this or that event in the life 
of a particular individual. 

Thus in the story of Tolstoy's " going 
away " which occupies us now, no investi- 
gation, however careful, can exhaust all 
the outer and inner circumstances, receding 
into an endless past, that have brought 
about the event in question. Besides, even in 
the domain of Tolstoy's personal life which 
admits of inquiry, the direct and indirect 
causes of his " going away " are so numerous 
and many-sided that it is beyond the power 
of a single individual to make an exhaustive 
enumeration of them. The colouring given 
in such cases to the circumstances under 
investigation and the very drift of the inquiry 
depend so largely upon the personal point 
of view and the mood of the writer, that, 
try as he may to be impartial, his selection 
and treatment of causes will inevitably be 
more or less one-sided. Therefore in order 
to bring to light the causes of Tolstoy's 
" going away," it is extremely important 
that the greatest possible number of his 
contemporaries should record and preserve 
for future generations the facts known to 



INTRODUCTION xxiii 

them as well as their thoughts and reminis- 
cences; and it is desirable, too, that this 
should be done particularly by those of them 
who had occasion to stand nearest to Tolstoy's 
personal and family life. A true history of 
Tolstoy's life must be preserved in the greatest 
possible fullness for future generations. His 
contemporaries, and in the first place his 
relatives, personal friends and co-workers, 
ought not to neglect this important task 
laid upon them by fate itself. 

So far as I am concerned, I quite realise 
that the small beginning which I venture 
to make with the present narrative is only 
a drop in the sea of all the facts, observations 
and deductions which it would be desirable 
to gather together before Tolstoy's contem- 
poraries leave the scene of this earthly life.^ 

In composing the present book I have 
tried to distinguish as sharply as possible 
between: (1) facts and circumstances which 
I knew for certain, and therefore have stated 
them without any reservations; (2) facts 
and circumstances of the certainty of which 
I personally am convinced, though I do not 

1 In connection with the Tolstoy Museum in Moscow 
(Pretchistenka 11) a circle has been formed with the 
object, partly, of collecting and presendng such com- 
munications. Some of them may, with the author's 
consent, be published in the Viestnik. 



xxiv INTRODUCTION 

consider myself entitled to aflfirm them 
unconditionally, and state them with some 
reservations; (3) circumstances surmised by 
me on the ground of certain data which I 
quote herewith ; and (4) my personal opinions, 
considerations and reflections upon the facts 
quoted. 

Being compelled in the present narrative 
to be as brief as possible, I am unable to 
substantiate all my assertions by documen- 
tary and other evidence in my possession. 
I am therefore addressing myself here only to 
such readers who can take my word for it 
that I give out as facts only that which 
is known to me for certain, and do not permit 
myself any embellishments or exaggeration. 
But in the other, still unwritten, book to 
which I have referred, Tolstoy^s Moral 
Achievement, the subject of his family life 
as a whole will be extensively treated and 
I shall quote my data in full. 

If I often permit myself to include in 
the narrative my personal valuation of the 
events, this is certainly not because I want 
to force my own opinions on the reader 
instead of barely stating the facts and letting 
him draw his own conclusions. I quite 
recognise the advantages of a so-called objec- 
tive narrative, but it was not what in the 



INTRODUCTION xxv 

present case I had in view. As I have 
mentioned already, my purpose in writing 
this book was to contradict the slanders 
against Leo Nikolaevitch and the misinter- 
pretations of his conduct. I do not doubt 
that the majority of my readers will consider 
my selection of facts and my interpretation 
of them one-sided. Let, then, other inves- 
tigators of the same subject interpret the 
facts each from his own point of view. The 
more such narratives are published, the less 
risk there will be of the reader receiving 
a one-sided impression, and the more free 
he will be to draw his own conclusions. 

As to a detailed objective exposition of 
all the circumstances connected with Tolstoy's 
" going away," I believe that, desirable as 
it is, the time for it has not yet come, for 
the persons who possess most information 
on the subject have not yet had time to 
publish the numerous and varied details 
known to them. Let us hope that they 
will not put off this task for so long that they 
will be dead before they have fulfilled it. 
And if my present contribution will induce 
them also to give out something of what 
they know, even if it were solely with the 
object of contradicting me, I should be very 
glad of it, as indeed of any corrections of 



xxvi INTRODUCTION 

my work that anyone might wish to make. 
It is far better that the matter should be 
thoroughly thrashed out between the eye- 
witnesses rather than — as often happens with 
the lives of distinguished men — it should 
become, in future ages, the subject of an 
extensive polemic literature which seldom 
succeeds in getting at truth. It seems to me 
that only when there appear the greatest 
possible number of additional communications 
on the same subject shall we be able to 
work out, from all the accumulated material, 
that really objective and trustworthy account 
of Tolstoy's "going away " which is so neces- 
sary in order to give men a true idea of the 
spiritual achievement of his life. 

V. TCHERTKOFF. 

Moscow, Lefortovsky pereulok, 7. 
January 1922. 



PART I 

WHY TOLSTOY DID NOT LEAVE HIS HOME 

{From a letter to H. Dosev, October 19, 1910 ^) 

Dear Dosev, 

I feel that I must protest against 
what you say in your last letter in con- 
nection with Leo Nikolaevitch. 

Among other things you say of him : 
" Nothing is worse than slavery. And worse 
still is slavery to a spoilt child who has 
been spoilt by oneself. But I know nothing 
worse in the world than being enslaved to 
an irrational, self-willed woman who is con- 
vinced that her slave husband will do what- 
ever she chooses. Is not Sofya Andreyevna 
such a woman, and is not Leo Nikolaevitch 

^ Ten days before Leo Nikolaevitch went away from 
Yasnaya Polyana this letter was written by me 
to Christo Dosev, the common friend of Tolstoy and 
myself, who migrated to Russia from Bulgaria and 
died in the year 1919. I quote my letter word for 
word to preserve its direct character. I ought to 
mention that a few years after Tolstoy's death Dosev 
told me that he recognised how mistaken was the 
censure of Tolstoy to which he had given expression 
in the letter which called forth this answer from me. 



2 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

in slavery to her? His submissiveness 
to Sofya Andreyevna I regard not as a virtue 
but as a weakness. He makes concessions 
to her through fear of sinning against love; 
but in doing this is he not sinning against 
the great love? You know she keeps him 
away from his friends, from the peasants, 
from humanity; she makes him live the 
revolting life of a wealthy landowner. I do 
not reproach Leo Nikolaevitch, I do not 
condemn him— I love and respect him too 
much. But I am sorry for him. I am sorry 
for his whole life, and for his great teaching, 
which has not passed in vain for himself and 
for those near him, but which will pass in 
vain for the peasants and for humanity; 
for his external life blurs all the significance 
and meaning of his words and thoughts in 
men's eyes." 

You conclude with the words : " Do not 
be hurt by my words. I repeat — this is 
the expression not of censure, but of the 
pain of a man who loves him. And so if 
there is something I don't see rightly, you 
and all the others and Leo Nikolaevitch 
must forgive me. The greatest joy of my 
life is my love for him and for all of you, 
friends of the spirit." 

Just because I believe in the sincerity 



TOLSTOY'S TRUE MOTIVES 3 

of your love for Leo Nikolaevitch, and know 
that he too loves you, just because of that I 
feel irresistibly impelled to answer those 
words of yours, dear friend. You really do 
not " see rightly," and are mistaken in 
assuming slavishness and inconsistency in 
Leo Nikolaevitch. On the contrary, he 
displays in his attitude to Sofya Andreyevna 
the greatest freedom — ^freedom from anxiety 
about the opinion of men, and the highest 
consistency — ^the determination to do, accord- 
ing to the measure of his powers and under- 
standing, not his own will but the will of 
God. And for the sake of doing this will 
of God he is ready to endure any personal 
sufferings of his own and any human censure 
and disgrace. 

You are mistaken in supposing that Leo 
Nikolaevitch does whatever Sofya Andre- 
yevna wishes. On the contrary, there is a limit 
beyond which he does not give way to her. 
He does not give way to her when she de- 
mands from him what is distinctly against his 
conscience. And it is just because he does 
not give way entirely, but adheres to this limit 
in his concessions — it is just through that, 
that he has so much to put up with from 
Sofya Andreyevna. 

During the last ten years of his life Leo 



4 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

Nikolaevitch has often thought of leaving his 
wife, and has more than once been on the 
verge of taking that step. It is still perfectly 
possible that he will take it in the end if he 
becomes convinced that his remaining with 
his wife is not attaining his object, but merely 
exciting her, and encouraging her in her 
exactingness and tyranny. But to do this 
he must clearly and unmistakably recognise 
in his conscience that he ought to leave her. 
That he has not hitherto left her is not at all 
because it is more agreeable or more convenient 
to live in her house, it is not at all through 
weakness of character or dread of disobeying 
her; but, believe me, solely because he is 
not yet sufficiently convinced that he ought 
to go away, and does not feel that it is God's 
will that he should go. For him personally 
it would be so much more agreeable, peaceful 
and in every way convenient to go away, 
that he is afraid of acting selfishly, of doing 
what is easier for himself, and of refusing 
through cowardice to bear the trials laid 
upon him. 

If he did leave Yasnaya Polyana at his 
advanced age, and with his infirmities, he 
could not now live by manual labour. Nor 
could he go staff in hand about the world and 
fall ill and die somewhere by the high-road, 



TOLSTOY'S TRUE MOTIVES 5 

or as a passing pilgrim in a peasant's hut. 
He could not do it simply from affection 
for those who love him, for his daughters 
and the friends who are near him in heart 
and spirit — ^however attractive such an end 
might be for him himself, and however 
theatrically splendid it might seem to the 
crowd which at present censures him. He 
could not without being cruel refuse to settle 
in some modest abode where, without the 
help of servants, they could do his housework 
for him, surrounding him with the affection 
and care necessary at his age, giving him the 
opportunity of associating without hindrance 
with the working people whom he loves so 
much, and from whom he is at present 
completely cut off. Why, such a free, quiet 
life would be a real paradise for him in 
comparison with the prison in which he has 
to live now ! 

It will be asked why he does not accept 
for himself these happy surroundings so 
easily within his reach, seeing that his wife 
has, one would have thought, given him long 
ago sufficient ground for leaving her house. 
Why does he not now, at least, in the decline 
of his age, cast off the heavy burden which in 
the person of Sofya Andreyevna he has been 
bearing on his shoulders for thirty years, 



6 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

sometimes almost sinking under its weight ? 
It is obvious that if he does not do this it 
is not from weakness or cowardice, and it is 
not from selfishness; but, on the contrary, 
from a feeling of duty, from a manly deter- 
mination to remain at his post to the very 
end, sacrificing his preferences and his per- 
sonal happiness for the sake of doing what 
he considers to be the divine will. 

In July, 1908, Leo Nikolaevitch passed 
through one of those agonising spiritual 
crises, provoked by Sofya Andreyevna, which 
with him nearly always ended in serious 
illness. So it was on this occasion. Imme- 
diately after it he fell ill, and for some time 
after it was almost at death's door. I quote 
a few extracts from his diary in the days 
just before his illness. 

" July 2, 1908.— If I had heard of myself 
as an outsider — of a man living in luxury, 
wringing all he can out of the peasants, 
locking them up in prison, while preaching 
and professing Christianity and giving away 
coppers, and for all his loathsome actions 
sheltering himself behind his dear wife, I 
should not hesitate to call him a blackguard ! 
And that is just what I need that I may be 
set free from the praises of men and live for 
my soul. . . . 



TOLSTOY'S TRUE MOTIVES 7 

" July 2, 1908. — ^Doubts have come into 
my mind whether I do right to be silent, 
and even whether it would not be better for 
me to go away, to disappear. I refrain 
from doing this principally because it would 
be for my own sake, in order to escape from 
a life poisoned on every side. I believe that 
the endurance of this life is needful for 
me. . . . 

" July 3, 1908. — It is still as agonising, 
life here in Yasnaya Polyana is completely 
poisoned. Wherever I turn, it is shame and 
suffering. . . . 

" July 6, 1908. — ^Help me, O Lord ! Again 
I long to go away, and I do not make up 
my mind to; but do not give up the idea. 
The great point is : whether I would be 
doing it for my own sake if I went away. 
That I am not doing it for my own sake in 
staying I know. . . . 

" July 9, 1908. — One thing grows more and 
more agonising; the injustice of the senseless 
luxury in the midst of which I am living 
with undeserved poverty and want aU around. 
I feel worse and worse, more and more 
wretched. I cannot forget, I cannot help 
seeing. ..." 

I remember on one of these days Leo 
Nikolaevitch returning from a solitary walk 



8 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

in the woods with that expression of joyful 
inspiration which so often illumined his 
face of late years, and meeting me with the 
words : 

" I have been thinking a great deal and 
very deeply. And it has become so clear to 
me that when one stands at the parting of 
the ways and does not know how to act, one 
ought always to give the preference to the 
decision which involves more self-sacrifice." 

From all this it is evident how deeply 
Leo Nikolaevitch feels his position, how 
passionately he longs at times to throw off 
his yoke and at the same time with what 
sincerity and self-sacrifice he is seeking not 
his own comfort, but only one thing — ^the 
clear understanding of how he ought to act 
before his conscience, before his God, to 
whose service he had. devoted his life not in 
word alone but in deed also. 

After this how short-sighted, how unjust 
and cruel seem utterances — especially on 
the lips of a loved and loving friend of Leo 
Nikolaevitch's, as you are — such as that 
you look upon his submission to Sofya 
Andreyevna not as a virtue but as a weakness. 
We may suppose that in Leo Nikolaevitch's 
place we should act differently, though it 
would be difficult for us to say whether in so 



TOLSTOY'S TRUE MOTIVES 9 

acting we should be doing better or worse 
than he. We cannot understand all that 
is passing in his soul, and so we may be 
perplexed by some of his actions. But I at 
least cannot help feeling the greatest respect 
for the pure, self-sacrificing impulses by 
which he is guided. I cannot help feeling 
complete confidence in him on this question, 
for if anyone, sacrificing all his personal 
needs and pleasures, and regardless of his 
suffering and privations, whatever they may 
be, tries unswervingly to follow the dictates 
of his conscience, he is doing all that can be 
expected of a human being, and no one has 
the right to condemn, nor need anyone be 
anxious about him. You see, for us, looking 
on Leo Nickolaevitch's life from outside, 
it appears in reality as an external pheno- 
menon which we can consider according to 
our mood. In our moments of leisure we 
venture to criticise Leo Nikolaevitch and 
his manner of life and to decide on its value, 
as though it were far easier for us to grasp 
and understand it, than it is for him. 
" Another man's trouble I can handle easily, 
but my own is beyond my comprehension." 
We forget that for us it is only a subject of 
criticism about which we may have one 
opinion or another — a question concerning 



10 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

which we may on occasion argue and bring 
forward the pros and cons. But for Leo 
Nikolaevitch it is a question of conscience, 
it is the very business of his Ufe, it is that 
into which he is putting all his soul, all his 
understanding. What grounds have we 
for imagining that we outsiders, who know 
ourselves to be greatly inferior to Leo 
Nikolaevitch spiritually, are capable of under- 
standing his life better and deciding more 
conscientiously for him how he ought to 
act than he can himself, though he is seek- 
ing guidance for his conduct day and night 
before God? 

Let his enemies vent their malice over his 
seemingly humiliating position; let narrow- 
minded and short-sighted " Tolstoyans," 
who have neither spiritual penetration nor 
the delicate intuition of the heart, condemn 
him or bestow their patronising pity on 
him ; but we, his real friends, who are of one 
spirit with him, who understand by what he 
is living, and are struggling towards the 
same goal as he, we, dear Dosev, ought to 
have more faith and trust in him. 

As you are aware, none of Leo Nikolae- 
vitch's friends suffers more from Leo 
Nikolaevitch' s relations with Sofya Andre- 
yevna than my wife and I, for they deprive 



TOLSTOY'S TRUE MOTIVES 11 



us of one of the greatest joys of our lif< 
of personal intercourse with him, the enjoy- 
ment of which was the principal reason for 
our settling in this district.^ But when I 
am in a good frame of mind, all this which is 
painful and humiliating vanishes before my 
trust in Leo Nikolaevitch, and my convic- 
tion, which nothing will shake, that he desires 
nothing for himself, but is striving for one 
thing only — that is, that at every given 
moment he may be doing what God requires 
of him. 

Some members of his household who are 
devoted to Leo Nikolaevitch are distressed 
that he should give in to the farce — to them 
obvious — which Sofya Andreyevna so often 
plays before him in order to attain her objects, 
at one time agitating him by feigned attacks 
of despair and frenzy, at other times touching 
his heart by displays of penitence, meekness 
and care for his welfare which are even more 
insincere, or, if at times half sincere, are at 
least extremely transitory. But it seems to 
me that if, through the wonderful pm-ity of 

^ This letter was written at the time when, though 
living only a few versts from Yasnaya Polyana, I was 
forcibly separated from Leo Nikolaevitch. This 
separation, which lasted for about three months, was 
due to the hostile attitude towards me of his wife, 
whose excited condition he hoped to soothe by the 
promise not to see me. '\ 



12 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

his own heart, Leo Nikolaevitch is incapable 
of seeing Sofya Andreyevna as she really is, 
and with touching trustfulness seizes upon 
every justification for recognising in her the 
smallest signs of an awakening conscience, 
then, though he may be mistaken in it, the 
tender emotion and joy which he feels on 
such occasions are perfectly legitimate, be- 
cause they arise from his great love and 
readiness to forgive everything. It is doubt- 
ful whether her success in pretending is 
good for Sofya Andreyevna herself. But 
who knows, perhaps this wonderful faith in 
her soul on the part of Leo Nikolaevitch, 
which nothing can shake, his continual 
expectation, his premature, eager anticipa- 
tion of the spiritual awakening in her which 
he so wholcrheartedly desires, will in due 
time have its effect upon Sofya Andreyevna. 
Perhaps such an attitude to her on the part 
of the man whom she has so mercilessly 
tortured for so many years, and who never- 
theless is of all people the only one who has 
sincerely loved her, and loved her to the end, 
wUl one day be reflected in her soul. The 
memory of this in its due time, for instance, 
when she will become conscious of the near- 
ness of her own death, when all worldly 
plans, aims and desires inevitably retreat 



TOLSTOY'S TRUE MOTIVES 13 

into the background, is the one thing that 
may be capable of awakening in that unhappy 
woman the divine spark, the possibility of 
which we have no right to deny in any human 
being. And if this is possible, is it surprising 
that Leo Nikolaevitch, entirely given up 
to the service of the divine love as he is, 
should untiringly attempt to melt with his 
love the heart of the partner of his life whom 
he once drew to himself, with whom he 
shared his past sinful life, and with whom he 
would also wish to save his soul ? 

And indeed as a rule, dear Dosev, I am 
deeply convinced that no one of us can decide 
for another, nor determine in regard to 
another man's behaviour what is his weakness 
and what is his virtue. " Before his God," 
as it is written in the gospel, " every one of 
us shall stand or fall." It is not for us 
human beings to meddle in the secret 
region of another man's soul with our 
short-sighted criticisms, our frivolous verdicts 
and our mistaken condolences. 

And however Leo Nikolaevitch may act 
in the future— whether he remains to the 
end beside his wife, or whether at some time 
he finds it necessary for her benefit to go 
away from her — I am convinced of one thing : 
that in that matter he will really act only as 



14 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

his conscience bids him, and therefore he 
will act rightly. 

Why, if Leo Nikolaevitch's wife were 
drowning and, plunging into the water to 
save her, he perished himself, nobody would 
reproach him for having sacrificed his friends 
and humanity for the sake of excessive 
family attachments. It is even more impos- 
sible to reproach him for devoting his life, 
sacrificing its joys and repose, and perhaps 
even giving it up altogether, for the sake of 
saving his wife from the ruin of her soul. 

It ought not to be forgotten also that at 
the same time Leo Nikolaevitch always 
contrives in the most attentive and sensitive 
way to respond to every real need, spiritual 
or material, of the whole people and of all 
mankind, devoting his whole working time 
to intense spiritual labour in the interests 
of the working masses, and of all suffering 
mankind, whether the suffering be from 
external or internal evil. 

As for your idea that for the simple 
people and for humanity "all his life and 
great teaching will pass in vain, because his 
external life blurs all the significance and 
meaning of his words and thoughts in men's 
eyes," on this too, I assure you, you are 
profoundly mistaken. 



TOLSTOY'S TRUE MOTIVES 15 

His words cannot pass in vain for humanity 
if only from the fact that they do not express 
something of " his own " with which only 
those who " follow him " can agree, but 
express the best that there is in the heart 
of every man. And from that very fact 
what Tolstoy says in his writings finds, apart 
from any relation to his own personal life, 
a direct and loving response in the heart and 
consciousness of all men whose conscience 
has not been blunted. And as time passes 
this response will only become clearer and 
more distinct. 

When the true conditions of the domestic 
life of Leo Nikolaevitch become generally 
known, the great heroism of his family life, 
reproducing in deed what he expressed in 
words, will be added to the direct persuasive 
force of his words in the eyes of humanity. 

" Going to the people," to prison, torture, 
the cross, the stake, the scaffold — all these 
have been already. And however deserving 
of the deepest respect are the men who face 
these for conscience' sake, yet if it is a question 
of a living example, we, people of the present 
day, needed an example of yet another kind. 

Men go willingly to the scaffold even from 
a desire to blow their neighbour into the air. 
Men become cripples for life or are killed for 



16 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

the sake of beating a record with a motor-car 
or an aeroplane. AH this is striking and 
sensational, but already no one is surprised 
by it. But it is quite a different matter to 
spend several decades with such a wife as 
Sofya Andreyevna without running away 
from her, and still preserving in his heart 
pity and love for her, and this to the accom- 
paniment of the unceasing mockery of his 
enemies and misunderstanding and censure 
from the majority of his friends — so to live 
from day to day, from year to year, not seeing 
and not foreseeing any escape but his own 
death; to endure, in doing so, all that Leo 
Nickolaevitch has to endure, being periodi- 
cally made ill by it and almost dying, and 
not only to have not the smallest blame or 
bitterness in his heart, but, on the contrary, 
to be always blaming himself for lack of 
patience and love — this really is the highest 
consistency on the part of Leo Nikolaevitch. 
This is a testimony of the truthfulness of his 
theory of life than which nothing stronger 
and more striking could be imagined. This 
is just the example that humanity is in 
need of in our day, and this example Leo 
Nikolaevitch is giving us in his life. 

When one looks at the matter from this 
point of view it becomes so clear as to be 



TOLSTOY'S TRUE MOTIVES 17 

obvious why Leo Nikolaevitch had to have 
just such a wife as was vouchsafed to him. 
" For a great ship a great journey." He who 
deHvered the message of love in its absolutely 
unlimited sense needed to have the possi- 
bility in his life of proving in action that 
a love that nothing in the world could destroy 
was really attainable for man. And in due 
time, when the truth about Leo Nikolae- 
vitch's life becomes common property, men 
will be infinitely grateful to him for this 
joyous confirmation of the possibility of 
following in practice the godly theory of 
life of which Tolstoy is the exponent in his 
writings. 



PART II 

WHY TOLSTOY WENT AWAY 

CHAPTER I 

LIFE AT YASNAYA POLYANA 

A FEW days after the foregoing letter was 
written Leo Nikolaevitch left Yasnaya 
Polyana. 

At first sight it may seem that if he did well 
in remaining so long with his wife, he ought 
not to have abandoned her in the end ; or, on 
the contrary, if he was right in going away, it 
was a mistake not to have done so sooner. 

That is how many do reason. Some — 
the majority — commend him for his depar- 
ture, considering that thereby he " atoned " 
for his supposed weakness and inconsist- 
ency in the past. Others — a small minority 
— commend him, on the contrary, for re- 
maining so many years with his wife, 
but consider his going away a proof of his 
inconsistency.^ 

^ I have come across references to my letter to Dosev 
as though it proved that, for all my devotion to Leo 

18 



LIFE AT YASNAYA POLYANA 19 

It seems to me that in any case Leo 
Nikolaevitch's friends who were able to 
estimate at its true value the self-sacrifice 
with which he remained a voluntary prisoner 
in his wife's house for so many years ought, 
more than anyone, to have that confidence 
in him of which he was worthy. They might 
at least be confident that if, after all this, he 
did decide to go away, he must have had 
good grounds for doing so; especially since 
such an explanation is far more natural and 
credible than the supposition that Leo Niko- 
laevitch, who had so successfully endured 
this prolonged ordeal and had displayed such 
striking stoicism and self-sacrifice, on the eve 
of his death suddenly, for some reason, 
broke down and was false to his conscience. 

In regard to the question of whether he 
was to remain with his wife or go away, Leo 
Nikolaevitch was guided not by any one 



Nikolaevitch, I considered that he ought not to have 
left his wife. But there is nothing of the sort in my 
letter, the main drift of which is merely that no one 
has the right to set himself up as a judge of Leo Niko- 
laevitch in the matter. I indicated in detail how sound 
were the reasons impelling him to remain in Yasnaya 
Polyana while he did remain there; but at the same 
time, in the very same letter, though it was written 
before Leo Nikolaevitch went away, I made several 
allusions to the possibility that in the end he would 
think it necessary to go. 



20 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

impulse, but by many, and often contra- 
dictory, impulses. 

On the side of not leaving his wife he had 
various considerations which are touched on 
in my letter to Dosev. The chief of them 
was his consciousness that in remaining he 
was fulfilling the demands of love in regard 
to Sofya Andreyevna, and was trying to do 
her good, while he was performing an act of 
self-sacrifice for the benefit of his own soul. 

He had also, in the course of the last 
thirty years of his life, many grounds for 
going away ; and though, until the time was 
ripe, they could not outweigh those that kept 
him with his family, yet in themselves they 
were very weighty. 

On one side he was painfully conscious — 
and ever more painfully as time went on — 
of all the injustice, all the sinfulness of the 
surroundings of his home life, which were 
those of a rich landowner in the midst of 
the poverty around him, and he never for- 
gave himself for his participation in those 
surroundings. Some months before his death 
he wrote, as is well known, in the introduction 
to his novel, There are No Guilty in the World : 
" The complicated conditions of the past, my 
family and its demands, have not let me out 
of their clutches " ; and, at once, with the 



LIFE AT YASNAYA POLYANA 21 

fear of self-justification characteristic of him, 
hastened to add " or rather I had not the 
ability nor strength to free myself from them." 
But recognising at that time the hopelessness 
of his position, Leo Nikolaevitch found a 
good side in the fact that it was so painful 
to him. " Being without any desire for self- 
justification, or any fear of the liberated 
peasants, and also without the peasants' 
envy and bitterness against their oppressors, 
I am in the most favourable position for 
seeing the truth and being able to tell it. 
Perhaps it was just for this that I have been 
placed by fate in this strange position. I 
will try, as far as I know how, to take advan- 
tage of it. This at least to some extent, 
anyway, alleviates my condition." 

On the other hand, he was at times much 
distressed by the consciousness of the false 
position in which he was placed before men, 
and before the peasants especially, by the 
external conditions of his life, which were so 
directly opposed to his convictions. He was 
well aware that the majority of people con- 
demned him for taking part in that life. 
But he was resigned even to that, finding a 
, spiritual blessing in his humiliation before 
men. In his Circle of Reading ^ he said : 
1 Circle of Reading, May 17. 



22 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

" What is called religious folly, i. e. conduct 
which provokes censure and attack, is intelli- 
gible and desirable as the sole proof of one's 
love for God and one's neighbour." " The 
condemnation by man of your actions," he 
says in a private letter, " if your actions are 
not due to selfish motives, but to doing the 
will of God, is far from requiring you to 
justify them; on the contrary, this con- 
demnation is a benefit, in that it gives you 
certain conviction that you do what you are 
doing not for the praise of men, but for the 
sake of your soul, for God." ^ 

But above all Leo Nikolaevitch had to 
suffer directly from his wife's antagonism 
and disagreement with regard to what was 
for him more precious than anything. This 
hostility on the part of his wife often reached 
the point of unconcealed hatred of him, 
making him at times despair of the possi- 
bility of softening her heart at all. As years 
went on the spiritual rift between them 
became complete. Leo Nikolaevitch had 
periods of such doubt and depression of 
spirit that he felt quite hopeless, and was 
ready to run away from home. One of these 
periods I have referred to above, but even 
at the beginning of the 'eighties Leo Niko- 

1 1907. 



LIFE AT YASNAYA POLYANA 23 

laevitch had moments when he could scarcely 
restrain himself from going away. 

It was so, for instance, in the summer of 
the year 1884. In his diary of that time we 
find such entries : "If only I could have 
confidence in myself. ... I cannot go on 
with this savage life. Even for them " (the 
members of his family) " it would be a bene- 
fit. They will reconsider things if they have 
anything like a heart. ... I said nothing, 
but I felt horribly depressed. I went away, 
and meant to go away altogether, but her 
being with child made me turn back half way 
to Tula. ... It was horribly painful. . . . 
It was a mistake not to go away. I think it 
will be bound to happen sooner or later." ^ 

After 1884, as Leo Nikolaevitch's spiritual 
forces developed further and gained strength, 
he did succeed to some extent in bearing 
patiently the insults and suffering inflicted 
upon him, and learnt to resign himself to the 
painfulness of his position, extracting gain 
for his inner life from all that he endured. 
But how hard it still was for him may be 
seen, for instance, from the confession that 
broke from him in conversation with a friend 
of his, the peasant M. P. Novikov, when the 
latter visited him on the 21st October, 

1 June 17-24, 1884. 



24 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

1910 : " I have never concealed from you 
that in this house I am boiling as in hell, 
and I have always dreamed of going away, 
and longed to go somewhere into the forest 
to a keeper's hut, or to a village to some 
lonely peasant's hut, where we could help 
one another. But God has not given me the 
strength to break away from my family. My 
weakness is perhaps a sin, but I could not 
for the sake of my personal satisfaction make 
others suffer, even although they are members 
of my family. ..." 

During this time everything that was pain- 
ful in Leo Nikolaevitch's relations with Sofya 
Andreyevna, and which had grown with the 
decades, began to develop with increased 
rapidity. In .this brief but terribly concen- 
trated period of his life much which his good- 
will towards her had prevented him from 
observing in Sofya Andreyevna before began 
to be apparent to him. At first it was very 
difficult for him to see his way in his com- 
plicated position and among all the varied 
feelings and impulses which rose up in his 
soul. He had not only to bear his old, long 
familiar cross, but also to deal with new, 
quite unforeseen trials before he had time 
to see clearly what attitude he ought to take 
up to them. 

These exceptionally complicated conditions 



LIFE AT YASNAYA POLYANA 25 

must be kept in view in order to follow Leo 
Nikolaevitch's spiritual experiences of that 
period with any degree of accuracy. It was 
difficult for him to understand his own state 
of mind, and he exercised the greatest cir- 
cumspection in order not to act prematurely 
nor precipitately. It is all the more neces. 
sary for us to be extremely circumspect in 
examining the various spiritual states which 
followed each other and were interwoven in 
him at that time. It is impossible to ap- 
proach the very complicated workings of 
his soul with ready-made theories, or to 
offer a rough-and-ready explanation of Leo 
Nikolaevitch's behaviour on the lines of 
one's personal bias— whether domestic, religi- 
ous, social, or otherwise ; and least of all can 
one be guided by information or argument 
coming from his domestic circle, whose 
vanity was so deeply wounded by his depar- 
ture. In order really to understand Tolstoy 
and his behaviour in this most important 
period of his life, it is above all needful to 
free oneself from the slightest partiality, 
narrowness and one-sidedness, to be ready to 
look the truth in the face and as far as 
possible to weigh attentively all the conditions 
and circumstances, not taken separately, but 
in combination and in all their complex 
interaction. 



CHAPTER II 

CHANGE FOR THE WORSE IN HIS WIFE'S 
ATTITUDE TO HIM 

And so in the last few months before Leo 
Nikolaevitch left Yasnaya Polayna he was 
subjected in an intensified form to all the 
agonising conditions which had for many 
years made him long to get away from his 
family. What went on around him in 
Yasnaya Polyana, particularly in the manage- 
ment of the estate, seemed to be purposely 
calculated to wound, insult and revolt him 
more and more in his most sacred feelings. 
In her relations with the peasants Sofya 
Andreyevna, far from restraining herself 
through consideration for her husband, be- 
haved with peculiar injustice and harshness 
as though to spite him.^ 

^ At the beginning of the eighties of the last century, 
Leo Nikolaevitch's feeling against property in general, 
and the ownership of land in particular, began to take 
shape, though it was only somewhat later that it was 
fully fixed and confirmed. He renounced all property 
for himself personally in 1894, acting as though in that 
respect he were dead, that is, leaving the possession 
of his former property to those whom he regarded as 
his heirs, that is, his family. After this Sofya 
Andreyneva began to manage the estate of Yasnaya 

26 



HIS WIFE'S ATTITUDE TO HIM 27 

At one time she would try to impress on 
the peasants that she was acting with the 
consent and approval of Leo Nikolaevitch 
himself; at another she would boast before 
him that his championship had no influence 
on her arrangements, It is easy to imagine 
how unutterably painful all this was for him. 
It is sufficient to recall how he sobbed when 
he chanced to come across a policeman 
on horseback dragging along a Yasnaya 
Polyana peasant caught in the Tolstoys' 
forest, an old man whom Leo Nikolaevitch 
knew well and respected. Fully realising 
that he would not in the least improve the 
position of the peasants by going away, Leo 
Nikolaevitch went on regarding such spec- 
tacles as a bitter trial laid upon him, and 
confining himself to protesting warmly on 
every possible occasion. In the same way, 
that is as a trial laid upon him, he continued 
to look upon the false position in which he 
was placed in the eyes of the public by his 
apparent acceptance of what was done in 
Yasnaya Polyana, On this subject he not 
only continually received abusive letters 

Polyana, while his children divided the land and pro- 
perty between them. Later on Leo Nikolaevitch 
felt, he said, that he had made a mistake in giving up 
the land to his " heirs " instead of to the local peasants, 
and at the desire of his family confirming the transfer 
by legal act. 



28 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

which he accepted as a useful exercise in 
humiUty, but also from time to time persons 
wishing him well addressed him with censure 
and exhortation. A letter written by Leo 
Nikolaevitch at the beginning of 1910 in 
answer to an unknown student who had 
written to persuade him to leave his privi- 
leged surroundings, is characteristic : 

" Your letter touched me," wrote Leo 
Nikolaevitch ; " what you advise me to do is 
my cherished dream ! That I should be living 
at home with my wife and daughter in 
horrible, shameful conditions of luxury in 
the midst of the poverty around us tortures 
me unceasingly and ever more and more; 
and not a day passes on which I do not think 
of carrying out your advice." 

At the same time a third and most painful 
trial, consisting in his wife's immediate 
attitude to him, was intensely accentuated. 
The mournful recital of those spiritual 
agonies which shattered his health, and which 
she systematically inflicted on him in the last 
months of his life, will be set forth in its 
time and place. No one can imagine what 
he had to endure and to suffer at that time. 
On one occasion, calling in D. P. Makovitsky,i 

1 An intimate friend who shared the views of Leo 
Nikolaevitch, a doctor who hved in the Tolstoys' 



HIS WIFE'S ATTITUDE TO HIM 29 

Leo Nikolaevitch said to him : " Dushan 
Petrovitch, go to her " (Sofya Andreyevna) 
" and tell her that if she desires my death she 
is going the right way to bring it about." * 
In a touching letter of July 14, 1910, to 
Sofya Andreyevna, Leo Nikolaevitch, after 
making her every concession he considered 
possible, adds in conclusion : "If you will not 
accept these conditions of a good and peace- 
ful life, then I will go away. ... I will 
certainly go away, because it is impossible 
to go on living like this." 

It will be readily understood that with 
such a position of affairs Leo Nikolaevitch 
began to foresee more and more definitely 
the possibility that in the end he would have 
to leave Yasnaya Polyana. 

In a moment of openness he said to his 
friend, the peasant Novikov : " Yes, yes, 
believe me, I tell you frankly I shall not die 
in this house. I have made up my mind to 
go to a strange place where I shall not be 
known. And perhaps I may come straight 
to die in your hut. ... I want to prepare 
for death in peace, and here they think of 

house from the year 1904. He was of Slovak national- 
ality, and in 1920 left Russia and returned to Czecho- 
slovakia, where he died in 1921. 

1 From one of the diaries and letters of Tolstoy's 
friends and household of the times. 



30 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

me as worth so many roubles. I shall go 
away, I shall certainly go away." 

Only a final decisive shock was needed. 
In his same letter to the student he says about 
going away : " This can and ought only to 
be done when it is essential, not for the sup- 
posed external objects, but for the satisfac- 
tion of the inner need of the soul,— when to 
remain in the old position becomes as 
morally impossible as it is physically im- 
possible not to cough when one cannot 
breathe. . . . And I am near to that posi- 
tion, and every day I get nearer and nearer 
to it." 

But Leo Nikolaevitch still did not go away, 
and remaining continued to be subjected on 
an increased scale to the tortures to which he 
had been subjected since the 'eighties. And 
he remained still for the same reasons as had 
restrained him for thirty years. He knew 
that he would not alleviate the position of 
the peasants of the district by going. From 
his painful position in the eyes of men he 
drew a profitable lesson in humility. His 
wife's attitude to him assisted in him the 
development of true love for those who hated 
his soul. And therefore the more intense 
these trials became with the passage of time, 
the more painfully they were reflected in his 



HIS WIFE'S ATTITUDE TO HIM 31 

soul, the more difficult it became for him to 
deal with them— t^the more insistent from the 
spiritual point of view became the moral 
duty not to forsake his post, but to endure 
to the end. 



CHAPTER III 

THE HISTORY OF THE WILL 

In order to understand why Sofya 
Andrevna's attitude to Leo Nikolaevitch 
was so exasperated, and what impelled her 
to treat him so cruelly, it is essential to 
have some conception why he found it 
necessary about this time to make a will, 
leaving all his writings free to the public. 

The story of Tolstoy's will is so complicated 
and full of details that a separate circum- 
stantial account of it is required. Here I wUl 
only briefly state the most essential facts. 

At the beginning of the 'eighties, at the 
time when the spiritual regeneration of 
Leo Nikolaevitch was taking place, though 
his new attitude of completely disapproving 
of property was not yet fully defined, he 
made over to his wife an authorisation for 
the publication and sale of his collected 
works, the income from which was the 
principal source of the material means by 
which his family lived. Later on, when he 
came to realise that property of every kind 
was wrong, he did not, in spite of all his 

82 



HISTORY OF THE WILL 33 

efforts, succeed in persuading Sofya Andre- 
yevna to renounce this income voluntarily 
and to give him back the authorisation he 
had given her. He did not feel morally 
justified in forcibly depriving her of what 
she clung to so passionately, and what 
against the will of Leo Nikolaevitch she 
considered had been put at the disposal 
of the family for ever. This trading in his 
works by his wife against his wish was, in 
his own words, one of the most agonising 
sufferings of his life. All his new works, 
however, those that had appeared after 1881 
and those destined to appear later, he there- 
upon freed from the monopoly of his family, 
announcing in a letter to the newspapers, 
that aU who wished could reprint them 
without any fee. Sofya Andreyevna had, 
willy-nilly, to submit to this decision on 
the part of the author. But every time 
when, instead of articles of a religious and 
social character, which did not in the literary 
market command the immense value enjoyed 
by his artistic works, Leo Nikolaevitch 
undertook any work in artistic form, Sofya 
Andreyevna was so much excited and so 
persistently demanded that the publication 
of the new work should be handed over to 
her for the benefit of the family, that it 



34 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

completely destroyed the spiritual tran- 
quillity which he needed for concentrated 
creative work. 

Many times repeated, these family scenes 
led him to decide to print no more works of 
art during his lifetime.^ And this decision 
of his is the real reason why, during the 
latter period of his life, he gave so little to 
humanity in that sphere. 

In the end Sofya Andreyevna began quite 

openly to declare, even in the presence of 

Leo Nikolaevitch, that after his death, 

according to the advice of lawyers whom she 

had consulted, his renunciation of all literary 

property in the works of the second period 

would lose its validity, and that those works 

also would, like all the rest become the 

property of his family. Besides this she 

^ This decision, which Leo Nikolaevitch reached 
alone with his conscience, he tried to keep a secret 
from everyone, and when, guessing from certain signs 
how it was, I told him on one occasion, he was much 
puzzled to know how I could have discovered his 
secret. To explain why this decision not to publish 
his artistic work during his lifetime put a stop to Leo 
Nikolaevitch's work upon them, it must be pointed 
out that it was his habit to make the chief revision of 
his first rough sketches on the proofs sent him from the 
printer's. Besides, if he had merely worked at them 
in manuscript he would have been subjected to the 
same persistent persecution which so distracted his 
peace and his concentration upon his work. (Sofya 
Andreyevna told me that she had actually exacted a 
promise from him not to give anyone but herself his 
manuscripts to copy.) 



HISTORY OF THE WILL 35 

began to insist that Leo Nikolaevitch 
should give her a fresh authorisation for 
the sale of his writings of the first period 
for a long time in the future and also give 
her the right to prosecute at law anyone who 
should infringe the copyright. 

In his diary for 1909 Leo Nikolaevitch 
writes : " Last night I felt wretched after 
talking to Sofya Andreyevna about publish- 
ing my works and prosecuting. If she only 
knew and understood how she alone poisons 
the last hours, days, months, of my life ! 
I do not know how to say it to her and have 
no hope that anything one could say would 
produce the slightest effect upon her." ^ 

^ D. P. Makovitsky in his diary says the same thing : 
" In 1909 before the Stockholm Peace Congress, Sofya 
Andreyevna wanted to prosecute I. I. Gorbunov for 
publishing The Prisoner in the Caucasus, and sent 
Torba (a Court official, her helper in publishing 
Tolstoy's works) to see a lawyer. The lawyer asked 
what authority Sofya Andreyevna had for instituting 
proceedings. ' She has a deed of trust for transacting 
all Leo Nikolaevitch's affairs.' ' This is not enough, she 
must have a deed transferring the copyright to her.' 
Sofya Andreyevna asked Leo Nikolaevitch for it, but 
he refused point black. Then Sofya Andreyevna had 
recourse to hysterics and did not let Leo Nikolaevitch 
go to Stockholm. In the summer of that year she 
started playing very cleverly the same ^ame (this time 
against Tchertkoff), pretending to be ill in order to 
force Leo Nikolaevitch to give her the copyright. It 
was not Sofya Andreyevna who said the other thing, 
but Misha and Andryusha, They blurted out about 
the will."— (Sept. 14, 1910, Kotchety.) 



36 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

Becoming convinced that this greed of 
Sofya Andreyevna on behalf of the family 
would only increase with years, and that 
she really was capable of taking posses- 
sion of all his works after his death and 
of depriving other publishers of the possi- 
bihty of printing them, Leo Nikolaevitch 
felt himself morally bound to guard against 
such a monopolisation of his writings. And 
he was so firmly convinced that it was his 
duty before God and men to do this, that 
in spite of all that he had to endure on 
account of it afterwards, he remained un- 
shaken upon this point right up to his death, 
which was brought about by the spiritual 
sufferings which were inflicted upon him in 
consequence of this.^ 

1 A clear light is thrown upon what Leo Nikolae- 
vitch had to endure in this connection by a letter which 
a relation of his, the lawyer I. V. Denisenko, wrote for 
my benefit when I was exiled from the province of 
Tula in 1909, and being unable to be at Yasnaya 
Polyana, did not know what was taking place there. 
I append a few abstracts from the letter to complete 
the picture : 

" In the July of 1909, when I was at Yasnaya 
Polyana, Leo Nikolaevitch Tolstoy was intending 
to go to the Peace Congress at Stockholm, and 
Sofya Andreyevna was opposed to this. This pro- 
voked a regular series of misunderstandings and Sofya 
Andreyevna fell ill, not wishing Leo Nikolaevitch to go 
to the Congress. 

" It happened once that she called me into her bed- 
room, and showing me a general authorisation for the 



HISTORY OF THE WILL 37 

After carefully thinking over all the cir- 
cumstances of the case and taking advice 
of persons conversant with the subject, 
Leo Nikolaevitch came to the conclusion 
that if he really desired that his writings 
should be freely accessible to everyone after 

management of their affairs given her long ago by 
Leo Nikolaevitch, asked me whether she could upon 
this authorisation sell to a third person the right of 
publishing his work, and, what was still more important, 
institute proceedings against Sergeyenko and some 
teacher in a military school for making books of 
extracts and anthologies from the works of Leo 
Nikolaevitch on the ground that these books of extracts 
would cause her, Sofya Andreyevna, considerable 
material damage. . . . 

" I believe it was on the day after that that I was in 
the park picking berries with my wife and children. 
My wife asked me to go for something to the lodge. 
I went along an avenue, passing between flower-beds, 
and there quite unexpectedly I came upon Leo 
Nikolaevitch. I was struck by his appearance. He 
was bowed and he looked worried and exhausted. 
His eyes were dim and he seemed weak as I had never 
seen him before. He caught hurriedly at my arm on 
meeting me, and said with tears in his eyes : ' Ivan 
Vassilyevitch, darling, what is she doing to me? 
What is she doing to me ? She is insisting on having 
an authorisation for instituting proceedings. You 
know I can't do that. ... It would be against my 
principles.' 

" Then walking a few steps with me he said : ' I have 
a great favour to ask of you, only let it be a secret 
between us. For the time don't speak of it to anyone, 
not even to Sasha. Please make up a deed for me by 
which I could announce publicly that I give all my 
works at whatever date they may have been written 
freely for the benefit of all.' " 



38 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

his death, he could not secure his object 
without making a formal will. And there- 
fore, with this end in view, he decided to 
have recourse to that means. The editor- 
ship and first publication of all his 
posthumous works he entrusted to me, 
with the understanding that everything 
brought out by me should at once become 
public property. And in order to make the 
fulfilment of this task secure in practice, 
he made a formal will in favour of his 
younger daughter Alexandra Lvovna, which 
would make it possible for her to safeguard 
my task from any attempts to hinder it. 
The profit on the first issue of his works after 
his death he assigned in the first place for 
the redemption of the Yasnaya Polyana 
estate from the Tolstoy family in order to 
hand it over to the peasants, and this was 
duly carried out after his death. 

Of course the legal form of the will could 
not but be distasteful to Leo Nikolaevitch. 
But this was to some extent counterbalanced 
in his eyes by the fact that the object of the 
will was not prosecution of anyone in the 
future, but, on the contrary, the prevention 
of the possibility of legal proceedings being 
taken by persons who might put in claims 
to inherit proprietary rights in the works of 



HISTORY OF THE WILL 39 

Leo Nikolaevitch if there had been no such 
will. 

There was also another disagreeable side 
to this business for Leo Nikolaevitch. To 
avoid in connection with the will any 
altercations and dissensions, which would 
have been undesirable in themselves and 
would have made the position of Alexandra 
Lvovna, as legal heiress of his manuscripts, 
utterly impossible in the family, Leo 
Nikolaevitch resolved not to tell anyone of 
his will. Though to keep the fact of the 
existence of a will secret is a fairly usual 
thing to do in such circumstances, it will be 
readily understood that it was against the 
grain for Leo Nikolaevitch, and he resolved 
to act in this way solely because he saw no 
other alternative.^ 

1 There was even a motnent when these two un- 
desirable conditions associated with the will, i. e. its 
legal form and the secrecy accompanying it, caused 
Leo Nikolaevitch to feel doubts as to the rectitude of 
his action. These doubts were aroused by a conversa- 
tion with one of his intimate friends, who came in from 
outside and knew little of the circumstances of this 
complicated affair. Leo Nikolaevitch, who was dis- 
tinguished by an extreme degree of touching sensitive- 
ness to every criticism of his behaviour, agreed with 
his friend that he had acted, as the latter asserted, " in- 
consistently," and he told me of it, declaring, however, 
that he should nevertheless not change the dispositions 
he had made. On my side I was compelled to reply 
that in that case of course I should refuse to be his 



40 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

Sofya Andreyevna's fears that Leo 
Nikolaevitch might make a will depriving 

future executor for carrying out his testamentary 
dispositions, since only a conviction that I was accom- 
plishing his definite and conscious desire could give me 
the necessary moral support for the performance of 
this difficult and responsible duty. At the same time, 
in accordance with his request, I reminded him of the 
circumstances and considerations which had induced 
him to have recourse to a will. In answer I received 
from him the following letter : 

" I write this on little scraps of paper because I am 
in the woods out for a walk. Ever since yesterday 
evening I have been thinking about your yesterday's 
letter. The two chief feelings which it aroused in me 
were repulsion for the manifestations of coarse greed 
and heartlessness which I either did not see or have 
seen and forgotten, and distress and repentance that I 
should have hurt you by the letter in which I expressed 
regret for what I had done. The deduction I have 
made from the letter is that N. N. was wrong, and also 
that I was wrong in agreeing with him, and that I 
fully approve your conduct, but all the same am not 
satisfied with my own : I feel that it was possible to 
act better, but I don't know how. Now I do not 
regret what I have done, i. e. that I have made the 
will I did make, and I can only be thankful to you for 
the interest you have taken in the matter. 

" I shall tell Tanya about it to-day, and that will 
be very pleasant to me. 

" Leo Tolstoy. 

" Aug. 12, 1910." 

In his private pocket diary on Aug. 11, 1910, Leo 
Nikolaevitch wrote as follows : 

" A long letter from Tchertkoff describing all that has 
gone before. Very sad. Painful to read and recall. 
He is perfectly right, and I feel to blame in regard to 
him. N. N. was wrong. I will write to both of them." 

Certain persons who, for one reason or another, do 



HISTORY OF THE WILL 41 

his family of the copyright of his works 
were the underlying cause of her hostile 
attitude to him. It was on account of this 
that she made such efforts, on the one hand 
to wring out of him the complete transfer 
of all rights in his works to her, and on the 
other hand by incessant watchfulness over 
him to eliminate all possibility of his sign- 
ing any business document without her 



not sympathise with the testamentary dispositions of 
Leo Nikolaevitch, and especially those of them who 
took a personal share in the upsetting of them, continue 
to this day to assert that Leo Nikolaevitch saw in the 
end that he had made a mistake and regretted that he 
had made a will. 

In confirmation of this they quote a few words 
written by Leo Nikolaevitch in his pocket diary at 
the time of his doubts; but they are carefully silent 
with regard to the later note in the same diary which 
I have just quoted. 

In reality, of course, this incident of Leo Nikolae- 
vitch's hesitation can only serve to prove how con- 
sciously from every point of view he weighed and 
considered all the circumstances of the case. If no 
doubts had ever assailed him it would have been 
possible to admit the supposition that it had never 
occurred to him to look at the question from the other 
side, and that therefore his attitude to it was one- 
sided. But now we know that he not only took a 
critical attitude as to his action, but that at one time 
he even doubted if it were right. If, even after such 
hesitation, he yet definitely confirmed his desire that 
the will should remain in force, what can be a better 
proof that this his final decision expresses his real and 
fully conscious will? — Cf. Diary, Vol. I. ed. 1916; 
Appendix, p. 260, " The Will," July 22, 1910, 



42 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

knowledge. And it was for this same reason 
that she was filled with such hatred for 
me personally, assuming, though quite mis- 
takenly, that the initiative in Leo Nikolae- 
vitch's renunciation of his copyrights and 
the arrangements for carrying this out came 
from me. 

Leo Nikolaevitch was so firm in his 
resolution to leave his writings for the free 
use of all, that with his own hand he wrote 
a will in accordance with that idea, not 
once only but several times, owing to the 
fact that the legal form of the documents 
he composed were never sufficiently correct 
to secure the required authority for them. 
The last time he made his will while Sofya 
Andreyevna was watching over him most 
vigilantly, during a ride on horseback in 
the thickest part of the forest, having previ- 
ously invited three persons of the circle of 
friends living with me at Telyatniki near 
Yasnaya Polyana to meet him there and 
witness his signature. 

By making this will Leo Nikolaevitch 
secured that after his death his writings 
became accessible to all, and not the property 
of his family. This result in itself is of 
vast social importance, seeing that it gave 
the working people — the poorest class of 



HISTORY OF THE WILL 43 

all countries — access to Tolstoy's works in 
the cheapest form, since it was open to any 
number of publishers to print them, and 
the competition between them would bring 
down the price of the books. 

But apart from this purely practical gain 
for the vast masses of mankind, the struggle 
between Leo Nikolaevitch and his wife for 
the copyright of his works, — the struggle 
which cost him his life, — ^had also a great 
significance from the ideal side. It dis- 
played before the eyes of mankind, present 
and future, an extremely important truth 
in connection with the Christian doctrine of 
the non-resistance to evil by force which 
Tolstoy so vividly set forth and lighted up 
in his writings. Leo Nikolaevitch com- 
pletely sacrificing himself showed in practice 
that this principle does not lead, as many 
suppose, to helplessly giving in to evil and 
allowing it to triumph unchecked. Un- 
yieldingly maintaining his rejection of copy- 
right in the interests of the working masses 
of mankind, he confirmed by his example, 
plain to the whole world, what the less 
eminent " non-resistants " are continually 
exemplifying in their life. He showed that 
people of such a theory of life do not give 
in to evil, but are continually struggling 



44 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

against it in the best and truest way, by 
refusing to take part in it. He showed 
also that to yield to the demand of others 
from meekness and love for them is only 
admissible up to the limit beyond which they 
try to make one do what is against one's 
conscience ; and that when people's demands 
pass beyond those limits, one ought not to 
yield to them in any way in spite of any 
sufferings oneself or those one loves may 
have to bear. 

No insistence on the part of those nearest 
him, no sufferings of his own on account of 
it, were able to compel him in this case to 
depart from what he considered himself 
bound to do. Is it possible to find a more 
convincing proof that Tolstoy recognised it 
as morally necessary to resist evil in the 
most resolute way? — and it was just in 
consequence of this resistance to evil that he 
had to sacrifice both his peace and his life. 

In a letter to me of September 10, 1910, Leo 
Nikolaevitch writes of his inner experience 
in a way which is highly significant. He 
says : "Of late, not with my brains but 
with my sides, as the peasants say, I have 
come to a clear understanding of the differ- 
ence between the resistance which is return- 
ing evil for evil and the resistance of refusing 



HISTORY OF THE WILL 45 

to yield in the line of conduct which one 
recognises as one's duty to one's conscience 
and God. I will try." 

At the same time by his attitude to the 
very idea of literary property Tolstoy, by 
the exceptional sincerity and consistency of 
his manner of action, has helped and still 
more will help his literary brethren to see 
clearly in this " delicate " question, to shut 
their eyes to which has now become impossible. 
As time passes a greater and greater number 
of writers will undoubtedly be troubled by 
doubts as to whether it is not as morally 
reprehensible to traffic in one's words, in one's 
soul, as to traffic in one's body, and Tolstoy's 
attitude will serve conscientious writers as a 
guiding star in illuminating this question. 

One cannot but recognise Tolstoy's con- 
spicuous services in all this. And though he 
acted as he did without considering what 
bearing this would have on the consciousness 
of men, merely striving not to let himself be 
drawn into an action contrary to his con- 
science, nevertheless this first renunciation 
of literary property on the part of one of the 
greatest writers of the world undoubtedly has 
a vast significance for humanity. 

If in my present brief account of Tolstoy's 
leaving home I have had to dwell rather 



46 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

minutely upon the question of his will, it is 
because all the threads of the complicated 
conditions and circumstances which caused 
his departure meet about that central 
question. It is true that some of those 
near to Leo Nikolaevitch have tried to 
persuade themselves that Sofya Andre- 
yevna's attitude to him, which made it 
impossible for him to remain longer with 
her, was chiefly provoked by property 
interests not connected with his will. They 
ascribe her conduct to various causes and 
principally to her neurotic condition and 
morbid, abnormal j ealousy . Although putting 
the matter in such a light is undoubtedly due 
to affectionate goodwill to Sofya Andreyevna, 
I consider it my duty to protest against 
such an interpretation most decisively in the 
interests of truth, which here as everywhere 
is more important than anything. We 
ought not to hide from ourselves that there 
are more than a sufficient quantity of facts 
going to prove that Sofya Andreyevna in 
this case acted first of all, and most of all, 
under the influence of feelings and con- 
siderations immediately concerned with the 
material prosperity of her numerous family, 
consisting, as she was continually reminding 
people, of twenty-eight persons, counting 
children and grandchildren. It is essential 



HISTORY OF THE WILL 47 

to keep this circumstance in view in order 
to have a correct understanding of the 
attitude of Leo Nikolaevitch to his will. 

True love for people dead and alive alike 
is not shown by concealing their mistakes 
and failures from oneself and others, but in 
knowing how, in spite of all the undesirable 
qualities which every one of us has in 
sufficient quantity, to behave to one another 
with compassion and tolerance, recognising 
that everyone is responsible for all. Then 
we shall not try to pass by the weak spots 
without noticing them, or to smear over 
the cracks on the outside, but shall, on the 
contrary, display them in order that they 
may be corrected by the efforts of all. 

The above-mentioned circumstances and 
motives of the testamentary dispositions of 
Leo Nikolaevitch in regard to his writings 
must be kept in mind if one is to have a 
true conception of his position in the family 
at the period immediately preceding his 
" going away." An acquaintance with those 
circumstances and impulses makes it possible 
to understand the true character of the 
relations which have been formed between 
Leo Nikolaevitch and her with whom he 
had been connected for forty-eight long years 
and out of love and pity for whom he was 
ready to sacrifice all but his conscience. 



CHAPTER IV 

INTERVALS OF REST — IN OTHER PEOPLE'S 
HOUSES 

The only intervals of freedom and rest 
which Leo Nikolaevitch could enjoy from 
the indescribably painful conditions of life 
at Yasnaya Polyana at that period were 
afforded him by the rare occasions when he 
succeeded in getting away for a week or two 
to stay with some one of his more intimate 
friends. Thus during the last year of his 
life he stayed on two occasions with his 
daughter Tatyana Lvovna, in the Mtsensk 
district, and with me (I was in exile from 
the Tula province), the first time at Kryok- 
shino in the Zvenigorodsky district near 
Moscow, and afterwards at Meshtcherskoe in 
the Serpuhovsky district. But he very 
rarely succeeded in arranging these visits, 
and only did so with great trouble, since 
Sofya Andreyevna opposed them in every 
way; and if, in spite of her opposition, he 
did make up his mind to go away, it would 
sometimes happen that at the last minute 

48 



INTERVALS OF REST 49 

she would decide to go with him, which, of 
course, spoilt the chief object of the excursion. 
I remember on both occasions when he 
came to us how extremely shattered, worn 
out and ill Leo Nikolaevitch looked, and how 
perceptibly before our eyes he improved 
physically and revived spiritually. Even on 
the second or third day of a calm life, and 
in a circle of friends of the same way of 
thinking, who guarded his spiritual peace 
and fully respected his independence, he 
was completely changed. It was as though 
some crushing, agonising burden had fallen 
off him ; his face was brighter in expression, 
his movements became vigorous, in the 
morning he worked with concentration for 
many hours on end at his writings, amazing 
us all by the number of written pages which 
he afterwards gave us to copy out. During 
his daily walks he went so rapidly and so 
far that it was difficult for people much 
younger to keep up with him. With the 
visitors of the most varied kind, of whom 
numbers were always flocking to see him, 
and from whom no one in our house shut 
him off as at home, he carried on lively con- 
versations in his free time, in that way 
coming into direct contact with the sur- 
rounding world. In conversation with his 



50 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

friends no one interrupted him or contra- 
dicted him at every turn, an annoyance to 
which he was continually subjected at home, 
and therefore communion with those sur- 
rounding him here afforded him joyous 
spiritual relief. Everything showed what 
vast stores of energy were still preserved in 
him; it was clear that under favourable 
conditions he might for many years to come 
lead an active life to the joy and profit of 
humanity. 

His inner spiritual revival was shown 
very conspicuously in the fact that every 
day he became more and more drawn to 
artistic creation. At first he noted down 
characteristic meetings and conversations 
which took place during his walks. And 
each time before he went away he told me 
with confident eagerness that great, purely 
artistic works were stirring within him and 
taking shape in his soul, and that he hoped 
now to set to work upon them. But these 
plans were not destined to be realised, since 
on his return to Yasnaya Polyana the 
painful conditions which have been indicated 
already were renewed, and calm creative work 
was inconsistent with them. 

Altogether the difference between his con- 
dition, both physical and spiritual, when he 



INTERVALS OF REST 51 

arrived and when he left us was striking. 
I remember how I met him in the garden 
at the end of his last stay with us at Mesh- 
tcherskoe, where he had arrived almost in 
a state of collapse. He walked quickly and 
he looked remarkably vigorous and many 
years younger. With an air of lively sur- 
prise he greeted me with the words : "I 
don't understand what it is in your diet, but 
whenever I stay with you my digestion 
seems to become perfect." It is well known 
that the best conditions for a man suffering 
from defective digestion are simple, not 
elaborately prepared, food adapted to his 
requirements, and above all an even, un- 
troubled spiritual atmosphere in all his 
home life. But Leo Nikolaevitch expected 
so little by way of attention from others to 
his needs and tastes, he attached so little 
significance for himself to the influence of 
external surroundings, that it seemed as 
though it did not enter his head to connect 
the state of his health with the conditions 
surrounding him. 



CHAPTER V 

THE LAST PERIOD . 

The last and most painful period of Leo 
Nikolaevitch's life at Yasnaya Polyana began 
in June 1910, when, on a visit at my summer 
bungalow at Meshtcherskoe, in the province 
of Moscow, he was suddenly summoned 
back to Yasnaya Polyana by a telegram 
from Sofya Andreyevna, informing him of 
her sudden illness; as it afterwards turned 
out, a sham one. 

On his return to Yasnaya Polyana, Sofya 
Andreyevna surrounded his life with new 
restrictions, finally depriving him of even 
the limited share of personal freedom which 
he had until that time enjoyed. She gave 
up respecting his hours of literary work, for 
which she had once shown consideration, and 
by continually bursting in upon him and 
making scenes, she made it impossible for 
him to devote himself to the literary work 
in which he recognised his service to men. 
His daily walks had become his sole recrea- 
tion and solace, and now she began to 
hinder him from going where he wished to 

52 



/ THE LAST PERIOD 53 

go, and from taking with him those whom he 
wanted to take. She insisted that he should 
completely give up seeing those of his most 
intimate friends whose supposed influence 
on him she feared.^ Even inside the house 
she subjected all his actions and conversa- 
tions to a control which was never relaxed, 
not disdaining even the most indelicate 
methods, as, for instance, eavesdropping, with 
her shoes off at doors, and altogether watch- 
ing day and night over every action he took. 
As has already been mentioned, she was 
demanding from him such an authorisation 
for the disposal of his works as would give 
her the power to take legal proceedings in 
connection with them, and to retain the 
copyright over a prolonged period in the 
future. Apprehensive of what he might 
write in his diary, she tried to prevent his 
giving the manuscript books of his diary to 
anyone whatever, even to those whom he 
charged with work of one sort or another 
in connection with them, or in whose keeping 
he desired them to be preserved for the sake 

^ The members of Tolstoy's household who were 
most intimate with him — ^Alexandra Lvovna Tolstoy, 
D. P. Makovitsky and Varvara Mihailovna Feokritova 
— were convinced that Sofya Andreyevna's hatred of 
me was a sham. This is proved, for instance, by the 
following extract from Makovitsky's diary : 

" While I was riding with Leo Nikolaevitch to-day, I 



54 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

of greater security. She secretly stole from 
his pockets those very private diaries which 
he kept and carried about with him during 
the most painful periods of his life and 
scrupulously preserved from every human 
eye. Not only did she fail to conceal from 
him and others her distrust and— terrible to 
say— hatred for him, but openly in the 
hearing of all gave utterance to these feelings 
and often expressed them to him in so harsh 
a form that it brought on heart attacks and 
even fainting fits in him. She was jealous, 
or pretended to be jealous, of some of his 
most intimate friends, bound to him by the 
closest spiritual unity. In this connection 
also she openly expressed to those about 
her, and to outsiders and to Leo Niko- 



was thinking of Sofya Andreyevna's behaviour since 
June 24, and I came to the conclusion that in reality 
she is not, and never has been, jealous of Tchertkoff. 
She pretended to be jealous simply in order to separate 
him from Leo Nikolaevitch, and prevent him from 
influencing Leo Nikolaevitch; she thought it was due 
to Tchertkoff's influence that Leo Nikolaevitch wanted 
to give away his works to the public. . . . 

" And how well she played the part and deceived 
L. N., Tchertkoff, Tatyana Lvovna, and me (we were 
all convinced that she was jealous of Tchertkoff). I 
spoke of this to-day, and Varvara Mihailovna and 
Alexandra Lvovna answered that they had noticed the 
same thing long ago (that is, that there was no jealousy), 
and had put it down in their diaries " (October 13, 
1910). 



THE LAST PERIOD 55 

laevitch himself, such incredibly revolting 
suspicions as the tongue cannot bring itself 
to repeat, thereby reducing Leo Nikolaevitch 
almost to complete collapse and driving him 
to lock all the doors of his room. And with 
all this she did everything she could to 
prevent his going away from Yasnaya Pol- 
yana, even for the briefest visits which 
might have enabled him to have at least 
some rest from the atmosphere of his home, 
and to gain fresh strength to endure further 
tortures. 

All these requests and others similar to 
them Sofya Andreyevna did not merely put 
in words before Leo Nikolaevitch, but if he 
refused, tried by her whole behaviour to 
force him against his will to submit to her.^ 

1 D. P. Makovitsky records the following incident : 
" The day before yesterday she made a scene again : 
fell at Leo Nikolaevitch's feet and begged him to give 
her the keys of the safe in the bank where his diaries 
or the will were kept. Leo Nikolaevitch said that he 
could not do it and went out. As he passed under her 
windows Sofya Andreyevna leaned out and cried, 
'I have taken opium.' Leo Nikolaevitch rushed 
upstairs to her, but she met him with the words, 
' That was not true, I did not take any.' This scene 
upset Leo Nikolaevitch very much, and he said to 
Sofya Andreyevna, 'You are doing all you can to 
make me leave home.' After this he had palpitations 
and almost fainted. He had attempted to run up 
the stairs, and during those moments of terror and 
agitation was hving through his wife's death " (July 19, 
1910). 



56 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

For this purpose she resorted to simulated fits 
of hysteria and madness, threatened to 
commit suicide, pretended that she would 
swallow or had swallowed poison, ran half 
dressed out of doors in the rain or snow or 
at night, making them search for her all 
over the park, and running in to him at any 
time of the day or the night, even when, 
utterly exhausted, he had dropped asleep, 
and waking him up with the object of 
worrying the concessions she wanted out of 
him. There is no recounting all the un- 
utterably cruel means to which she unhesi- 
tatingly resorted for the sake of forcibly 
compelling him. And when the members of 
her family told her that she would kill him 
by such conduct, she answered coldly that 
his soul had long been dead for her and that 
she did not care for his body; and if she 
were asked what she would do and how she 
would feel if he really did die of her treat- 
ment, she would say, " I shall go at last to 
Italy; I have never been there." 

Leo Nikolaevitch for his part, so long as 
he thought it right to remain with his wife, 
tried with strikingly touching meekness to 
gratify all her wishes and to comply with 
all her demands which did not run counter 
to his conscience. When he considered them 



THE LAST PERIOD 57 

unreasonable, at first he refused, but as she 
obstinately insisted and resorted to her usual 
methods, in the end he often gave way in 
those cases also; at one time regarding her 
as quite insane, and being apprehensive that 
in a moment of frenzy she really might do 
herself some mischief. 

He was only unhesitating in his resistance 
when his conscience told him that he ought 
not to give way. Thus, in spite of all Sofya 
Andreyevna's importunities and strategy, he 
made his will and did not change it to the 
end; he did not give her the authority to 
take legal proceedings ; he did not hand over 
his diaries to her, but put them in a place of 
safety (in the bank at Tula). But since what 
was most necessary for her object was just 
that in which he found it impossible to give 
way to her, it was precisely with these de- 
mands that she persecuted him most. And 
so all his concessionsjinstead of pacifying her, 
only encouraged her in more persistent 
importunities and still more cruel means of 
oppression. 



CHAPTER VI 

MENTAL AGONY 

It will be readily understood that no 
health could hold out against such torments 
lasting over several months at a stretch, 
no less severe, it may be said, than the 
tortures of the Inquisition, and exceeding 
them in their uninterrupted persistence and 
prolongation. And indeed, returning to 
Yasnaya in a vigorous and excellent state 
of health, Leo Nikolaevitch began visibly 
fading away before her eyes in the night- 
mare period of the last months of his life : 
in the course of a few weeks he looked so old 
and drawn, so weak and thin, so pale and in 
every respect so physically run down as to 
be unrecognisable. In the course of those 
months he had several attacks of faintness. 
By the day of his departure he looked only 
the shadow of himself : his heart, his nerves, 
all his forces were utterly undermined, and 
of course, under such conditions, the slightest 
ailment was sure to carry him off, as hap- 
pened indeed with the first cold he chanced 
to catch immediately after he went away, 

58 



MENTAL AGONY 59 

All Sofya Andreyevna's conduct during 
those last months of their life together 
revealed to Leo Nikolaevitch much in her 
that he had never noticed before. He was 
not only led to doubt of his cherished dream 
of softening her heart by his all-forgiving 
love; he began even to feel uncertain 
whether he were doing her harm or good by 
being near her, and whether the doctors 
were not right who in her interests advised 
them to live apart.^ And in the end he 
became convinced that his presence really 
was a direct incitement to evil for her, 
calling out and accentuating all the worst 

1 At the advice of all his friends and members of 
his household Leo Nikolaevitch went in September to 
stay with his daughter Tatyana Lvovna Suhotin (at 
Kotchety) in order to have a rest from family scenes. 
But Sofya Andreyevna would not leave him in peace 
even there. This is what we read in Makovitsky's 
diary : 

" This is the third day that Sofya Andreyevna is 
perfectly frantic. Leo Nikolaevitch sent me to her 
several times during the day; in the morning she was 
in her room; she complained of headache and said 
that she had taken no food for two days; in the 
afternoon she ran oft into the garden. 

" Sofya Andreyevna spent the whole day by herself 
in the park. Leo Nikolaevitch sent me to find her. 

" ' On, Dushan Petrovitch ! ' he said to me, ' it's 
worse than ever; everything is going to the worst, 
Sofya Andreyevna insists that I should go away with 
her. But I simply cannot do it, for her demands go 
crescendo and crescendo. I don't know what to do ! ' " 
(September 11, 1910, Kotchety.) 



60 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

sides of her character. Speaking of his 
departure with that same Novikov a week 
before it took place, Leo Nikolaevitch said : 
" For my own sake I have not done this and 
could not do it, but now I see that it would 
be better for my family, there would be less 
dispute among them on my account, less sin." 
Another reason that had previously re- 
strained him from going away lay in the 
fact that he considered that the ordeal to 
which he was continually exposed in his 
wife's company was profitable for his own 
soul, and found in it a spiritual satisfaction. 
But in the end Sofya Andreyevna, as she 
herself expressed it after his death, " overdid 
it " in her behaviour with him, putting him 
in such a position that instead of satisfaction 
he began to experience the sense of awkward- 
ness and shame which one feels in taking 
part in something unbecoming, unseemly. 
Two days before he went away he wrote to 
me : "I feel something unbefitting, some- 
thing shameful in my position." And in the 
letter to Alexandra Lvovna the day after 
he went away he says : " I do not feel that 
shame, that awkwardness, that lack of free- 
dom which I always used to feel at home. 
In his last letter to Sofya Andreyevna from 
Shamardino he states even more definitely 



MENTAL AGONY 61 

that to return to her when she is in such a 
state of mind would be equivalent to com- 
mitting suicide, and he did not consider 
that he had a right to do that. So by now 
he no longer believed that staying with Sofya 
Audrey evna was profitable for his own soul, 
and recognised it as undesirable. 

In the course of the later years his hesi- 
tation had increased with every day, and at 
times he seemed to be on the very point of 
flight.^ He only stayed through not feeling 
as yet that irresistible impulse which, as 
he so well recognised, was essential in order 
that he might take this momentous step, 
not through rational considerations alone, 
but with all his soul, confidently and in- 
evitably. And so long as this impulse was 
lacking and he was more or less weighing 
the pros and cons of his departure, the con- 
sideration that for him personally to go 

^ Thus in D. P. Makovitsky's diary we read : 
" Leo Nikolaevitch spoke to Alexandra Lvovna of 
how heavy their family atmosphere was, and said 
that if it had not been for her he would have gone 
away. He is on the alert. Yesterday morning he 
asked me what were the morning trains to the south. 
He had said to Marya Alexandrovna, and before that 
to us, that he has not been able to work for the last four 
months and that Sofya Andreyevna keeps running in 
to him, and always suspecting that some secrets are 
being concealed from her, written documents and 
conversations " (October 26, 1910). 



62 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

away would be a relief, and that there would 
be more self-sacrifice in remaining, retained 
its force. Thus I have been told that two 
days before his departure, when he informed 
his old friend, the old lady Marya Alexan- 
drovna Schmidt (who, by the way, later on 
fully understood and approved his departure), 
that he thought of leaving Yasnaya Polyana, 
and she thereupon exclaimed : " Leo Niko- 
laevitch darling, it will pass, it is a moment's 
weakness," he hastened to reply : " Yes, 
yes, I know that it is a weakness and I hope 
that it will pass." 

So that in spite of the fact that Leo Niko- 
laevitch had now become aware of a new 
phase in Sofya Andreyevna's relations to 
him, which in reality removed any reason- 
able purpose in his remaining at her side, 
and justified his departure, since his presence 
was becoming bad for her and unprofitable 
for him, nevertheless he still lingered on, 
dreading to act prematurely, and as it were 
waiting for the last decisive shock. 

And this shock was not long in coming 
with startling abruptness. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE NIGHT OF TOLSTOY's GOING AWAY 

It happened very simply. On the night 
of the 27th October, at a time when it was 
supposed that Leo Nikolaevitch was asleep, 
as he lay in bed he heard and saw through a 
crack in his door Sofya Andreyevna steal 
softly into his study and search among the 
papers on his writing-table. Then as she 
was going away, noticing the light in his 
room, she went in and began with an anxious 
face inquiring how he was. This cold hypo- 
crisy on her part apparently destroyed the 
last illusion of Leo Nikolaevitch. Only a 
few days before he had been touched by the 
solicitude with which Sofya Andreyevna, 
coming into his bedroom in the same way at 
night, had climbed on to a chair and had set 
right the movable frame which had been 
insecurely fastened. Now he remembered 
that he had heard a rustle the night before 
too, and the real value of Sofya Andreyevna's 
care of him was suddenly revealed to him. 
Chance had unmasked the awful, systematic 
comedy which was being played from day to 

63 



64 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

day around him, and in which he had 
unconsciously to play the central part. 

In his diary he describes what he endured 
that night as follows : — 

" I went to bed at half-past eleven, slept 
till three o'clock. Woke again. As on pre- 
vious nights, the opening of doors and foot- 
steps. On the previous nights I did not 
look towards my door; this time I glanced 
towards it and saw through the crack a 
bright light in the study and heard rustling. 
It was Sofya Andreyevna looking for some- 
thing, probably reading something. On the 
evening before she begged and insisted that 
I should not lock the doors. Both her doors 
were opened so that she could hear my 
slightest movement. Both by day and by 
night all my movements and my words must 
be known to her and be under her control. 
Again footsteps, a cautious opening of the 
door and she goes out. I don't know why 
that aroused in me an irrepressible repulsion 
and indignation. I tried to go to sleep. I 
could not; I turned from side to side for 
about an hour, lighted a candle and sat up. 
The door opens and Sofya Andreyevna walks 
in, asking after my health and wondering at 
the light which she has seen in my room. 
Repulsion and indignation grow. I am 



TOLSTOY'S GOING AWAY 65 

breathless; I count my pulse seventy-seven. 
I cannot lie still, and suddenly take a final 
resolution to go away. I write her a letter; 
I begin packing what is most necessary, only 
to get away. I wake Dushan, then Sasha; 
they help me to pack." 

As Alexandra Lvovna described, she and 
her companion Varvara Mihailovna (the 
amanuensis) were awake that night. She 
kept fancying that someone was walking 
about and talking overhead. She was afraid 
that discussions were taking place between 
her father and mother. They fell asleep 
towards morning, but soon heard a knock at 
the door. Alexandra Lvovna went to the 
door and opened it. 

"Who is it? " she asked. 

" It is I, Leo Nikolaevitch. ... I am 
going away at once . . . for good. . . . 
Come and help me pack." 

Alexandra Lvovna said afterwards that 
she would never forget his figure in the 
doorway, in a blouse, with a candle in 
his hand and a bright face resolute and 
beautiful. 

In haste to get away, Leo Nikolaevitch 
dreaded one thing only : that Sofya Andrey- 
evna might come upon him before he suc- 
ceeded in getting off, and the calm realisation 



66 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

of his unalterable decision might thereby be 
troubled. 

" I tremble at the thought that she will 
hear, will come out — a scene, hysterics, and 
no getting away in the future without a 
scene. By six o'clock everything has been 
packed after a fashion. I go to the stable 
to order the horses ; Sasha and Varya finish 
the packing. ... It is night, pitch dark. I 
get off the path to the lodge, fall into the 
bushes, get scratched, knock against trees, 
fall down, lose my cap, cannot find it; with 
difficulty make my way out, go home, take 
a cap, and with a lantern make my way to 
the stable and order the horses to be 
harnessed. Sasha, Dushan, Varya come. I 
tremble, expecting pursuit. But at last we 
get off. At Shtchekino we wait an hour, 
and every minute I expect her to appear. 
But at last we are in the railway carriage 
and set off. Alarm passes, and pity for her 
rises, but no doubt as to whether I have done 
what I ought. Perhaps I am mistaken in 
justifying myself but it seems to me that I 
have saved myself not as Leo Nikolaevitch, 
but have saved what at times at least to 
some small degree there is in me." 



CHAPTER VIII 

Tolstoy's relation to his wife 

After his departure Leo Nikolaevitch 
never for a minute repented what he had 
done, and never considered the idea of his 
return to Sofya Andreyevna. When his 
daughter Alexandra Lvovna several days 
afterwards asked him whether he could regret 
his action, he answered : "Of course not. 
Can a man regret something when he could 
not act differently? " 

And why he could not act differently he 
told her openly in his letter of the 29th 
October : " For me, with this spying, eaves- 
dropping, everlasting reproaches, disposing 
of me according to caprice, everlasting con- 
trol, pretence of hatred for the man who is 
nearest and most necessary to me, with this 
obvious hatred for me and affectation of 
love . . . such a life is not merely unpleasant 
for me, but utterly impossible. If anyone is 
to drown oneself it is not she but I. ... I 
desire one thing only, freedom from her, 
from the falsity, hypocrisy and malice with 
which her whole being is saturated. . . . All 

67 



68 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

her behaviour to me not only shows a lack 
of love, but seems to have been unmistakably 
aimed at killing me. ..." 

These words broke from Leo Nikolaevitch 
like the irrepressible shriek from the tortured 
soul of a man who had for long years been 
accustomed to hide in himself the deepest and 
most poignant of his sufferings. And there- 
fore after giving vent for once to his need to 
speak out to his favourite daughter, he at once 
hastens to comment : " You see, dear, how bad 
I am. I do not conceal myself from you." ^ 

This letter is important for us, Leo Nikolae- 
vitch's friends, because it raises a little comer 
of the curtain with which for the last ten 
years of his life he scrupulously covered from 
the eye of man the inner tortures he expe- 
rienced. Were it not for this " human 
document " it might have been supposed 
that, having attained the marvellous height 
of spiritual illumination which distinguished 
the latter period of his life, Leo Nikolaevitch 
was thereby saved from the possibility of 

^ I permit myself to quote this letter without asking 
Alexandra Lvovna's permission to do so, because it 
has already, without our previous knowledge, appeared 
in print in the historical journal, Facts and Days 
(Petrograd, 1920), and because it makes a less one-sided 
impression in connection with the other contents of 
the present book. 



RELATION TO HIS WIFE 69 

feeling insult and experiencing spiritual pain. 
Now we know that if in his diary, in his 
correspondence and in conversation with his 
friends he abstained for the most part from 
any complaints of the bitterness of his 
position, preferring to note his own mistakes 
and weaknesses, he did this not because he 
was at that time free from the common 
human characteristic of feeling pain inflicted 
upon him. We now see that to the very 
end of his days he had not ceased to be for 
us ordinary people a comrade capable of 
feeling the same mortifications and sufferings 
as we. For that reason we ought to be 
grateful to fate which for one instant revealed 
before us in that letter the deep spiritual 
wound which Leo Nikolaevitch bore away 
with him when he left his wife. But at the 
same time it would be quite a mistake to 
suppose that though he left Sofya Andrey- 
evna he retained any evil feeling towards her 
and was not capable of forgiving her. On 
the contrary, almost at the same time as the 
letter to his daughter which we have quoted, 
he wrote his wife a touching, warm-hearted 
letter which leaves not the slightest doubt of 
his real love for her. And on the following 
day he wrote to his two elder children : 
" Please try and soothe your mother, for 



70 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

whom I have the most sincere feeling of com- 
passion and love." And he not only pitied 
Sofya Andreyevna, but had so much real love 
for her that he could with a pure heart forgive 
her, and himself beg her forgiveness. 

Altogether the last letters of Leo Nikolae- 
vitch to his wife, which have, by the way, 
been published by her,^ strikingly reveal some 
characteristic peculiarities in his relations 
with her during the latest period of their life 
together. The most conspicuous peculiarity 
is that in spite of the very painful crises Leo 
Nikolaevitch had passed through in his family 
relations, the habitual and extremely delicate 
consideration in his behaviour to Sofya 
Andreyevna never left him for one minute. 
Consequently when telling her the causes of 
his departure, he does not without necessity 
touch upon those of his impulses which were 
disagreeable to her. Avoiding them as far 
as possible, he accentuates those of his 
motives which had a general character and 
did not wound her vanity. He only alludes 
to the points in which she had been to blame 
towards him when it is quite unavoidable, 
and touches on those questions as gently 
and carefully as possible. 

1 " Letters of Count L. N. Tolstoy to his wife, 1862- 
1910 " (Kushnerev & Co., 1915). 



RELATION TO HIS WIFE 71 

I will quote those of his letters which 
directly concern his departure, beginning with 
one written thirteen years before he actually 
went away, at a time when he was intending 
to leave his family but did not do so. He 
directed that this letter should be given to 
his wife after his death, which was done. 

I 

" June 8, 1897. 

" Dear Sonya, 

" For a long time past I have been 
worried by the inconsistency of my life with 
my convictions. To make you change your 
life, your habits in which I have trained 
you, I could not ; go away from you hitherto 
I could not either, thinking that I should 
deprive the children while they were small 
of at least that little influence I might have 
on them, and should be grieving you; nor 
can I any longer continue to live as I have 
lived these sixteen years, at one time strug- 
gling and irritating you, at another myself, 
succumbing to the temptations to which I 
am accustomed, and by which I am sur- 
rounded; and I have determined now to do 
what I have long wanted to do — go away : 
in the first place, because for me with my 
advancing years this life becomes more and 
more oppressive, and I long more and more 



72 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

for solitude ; and secondly, because my chil- 
dren are grown up, my influence is not now 
needed in the house, and all of you have 
interests more vital to you which will make 
you feel my absence less. 

" The chief thing is that just as the Hindus 
when close on sixty go away into the forest, 
as every religious old man longs to devote 
the last years of his life to God, and not to 
jests, to puns, to gossip and to tennis, so I, 
entering on my seventieth year, long with 
my whole soul for peace, for solitude, and if 
not for complete harmony, at least not the 
glaring discord between one's life and one's 
convictions, one's conscience. 

" If I were to do this openly there would 
be entreaties, upbraidings, arguments, com- 
plaints; I should lose courage, perhaps, and 
not carry out my decision although it ought 
to be carried out. And therefore please 
forgive if my action hurts you, and in thy 
soul do thou, Sonya, especially, let me go 
with a good will; do not look for me, don't 
lament over me, or complain against me; 
do not blame me. 

" That I have gone away from you does 
not show that I was displeased with you. I 
know that you literally could not see and 
feel as I do, and therefore could not and 



RELATION TO HIS WIFE 73 

cannot change your life and make sacrifices 
for what you do not recognise. And there- 
fore I do not blame you, but, on the contrary, 
with love and gratitude remember the thirty- 
five long years of our life, especially the first 
half of the time, when with a motherly self- 
sacrifice, which is part of your nature, you 
so vigorously and firmly bore that which 
you considered your vocation. You have 
given me and the world what you could 
give — ^you have given a great deal of motherly 
love and self-sacrifice, and one cannot but 
value you for it. But in the later period of 
our life — ^the last fifteen years — we have grown 
apart. I cannot think that I am to blame, 
because I know that I have changed neither 
for my own sake nor for other people's, but 
because I could do nothing else. I cannot 
blame you either for not following me, but I 
thank you and think of you; and always 
shall think of you, with love for what you 
have given me. 

" Farewell, dear Sony a, 

" Your loving 

" Leo Tolstoy." 

(Cf. Letters to Ms Wife, p. 524.) 



74 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

II 

" Yasnaya Poly ana. 

" October 28, 1910. 

" My going away will grieve you. I am 
sorry for it, but do understand and believe 
that I cannot act differently. My position 
in the house is becoming, has become, 
unbearable. Apart from everything else, I 
cannot any longer live in the conditions of 
luxury in which I have been living, and I 
am doing what old men of my age commonly 
do — ^they retire from worldly life to spend 
their last days in solitude and quiet. Please 
understand this and do not come after me if 
you find out where I am. Your coming in 
that way would only make your and my 
position worse and would not alter my 
decision. 

" I thank you for these forty-eight years 
of faithful life with me, and beg you to 
forgive me for anything in which I have 
been to blame towards you, even as I with 
all my soul forgive you for anything in which 
you may have been to blame towards me. 
I advise you to resign yourself to the new 
position in which my departure places you, 
and not to have any ill-feeling against me. 

" If you want to communicate with me, 



RELATION TO HIS WIFE 75 

give everjrthing to Sasha. She will know 
where I am and will forward anything that 
is necessary; she cannot tell you where I 
am, because I have made her promise not to 
tell anyone," 

{Letters to his Wife, p. 590.) 

Ill 

" Shamordino. 

" October 31, 1910. 

" A MEETING between us and still more 
my return is now utterly impossible. For 
you it would be, as everyone declares, highly 
injurious, and for me it would be awful, 
since now, in consequence of your excitement, 
irritation and morbid condition, my position 
would, if that is possible, be worse than 
ever. I advise you to resign yourself to 
what has happened, to settle down in your 
new position, and above all to attend to 
your health. To say nothing of loving, if 
you don't absolutely hate me you ought to 
enter a little into my position. And if you 
do that you not only will not blame me, but 
will try to help me to find peace and the 
possibility of some sort of human life, to 
help me by controlling yourself, and you 
will not wish me to come back now. Your 



76 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

mood as at present, your desire to commit 
suicide and efforts to do so, show more than 
anything your loss of self-control, and make 
my return unthinkable at present. No one 
but yourself can save all who are near you, 
me and above all yourself, from sufferings 
such as we have endured in the past.^ 

" Try to direct all your energies not to 
bringing about what you desire — at present 
my return — but to bringing peace to your 
soul, and you will get what you desire. 

" I have spent two days at Shamordino 
and Optina Pustyn, and am going away. I 
will post this letter on the way. I do not 
say where I am going, because I consider 
separation essential both for you and for 
me. Do not think that I am going away 
because I do not love you : I love and pity 
you with all my soul, but I cannot do 
otherwise than I am doing. 

" Your letter I know was written sincerely, 

but you are not capable of doing what you 

would wish to. And what matters is not 

the fulfilment of any of my desires or 

demands, but only your balance, your calm, 

reasonable attitude to life. And while that 

1 The words " sufferings such as we have endured in 
the past " have been left out of Tolstoy's letters by 
Sofya Andreyevna without any indication of an 
omission. 



RELATION TO HIS WIFE 77 

is lacking my life with you is not thinkable. 
To return to you while you are in such a 
state would be equivalent to committing 
suicide. And I do not consider that I have 
a right to do that. Farewell, dear Sonya. 
God help you. Life is no jesting matter, 
and we have no right to throw it away at 
our own will, and it is unreasonable, too, to 
measure it by length of time. Perhaps those 
months which we have left to live are more 
important than all the years lived before, 
and we must live them well." 

And from the touching interest which Leo 
Nikolaevitch displayed after he went away 
in everything relating to Sofya Andreyevna, 
questioning everyone about her with the 
greatest emotion and solicitude, it was per- 
fectly clear that, though he recognised before 
his conscience that to live together with her 
any longer was impossible, yet in his soul he 
was fully reconciled with her. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE MOTIVES THAT DECIDED HIS GOING AWAY 

For us, the nearest friends of Leo Niko- 
laevitch, who watched step by step what 
was taking place at Yasnaya Polyana during 
the last days of his presence there, the 
reason why he could do nothing but go 
away was easy to understand. But the 
reader who is not so closely acquainted with 
all the circumstances may ask, Why exactly 
did Sofya Andreyevna's behaviour on the 
last night have such an influence on Leo 
Nikolaevitch ? What did she do then that 
was new and not to be expected from her 
previous behaviour? 

Of course Sofya Andreyevna's behaviour 
on that night only gave the final impetus to 
Leo Nikolaevitch's going away. In reality 
the question of leaving home had already 
been decided in his soul, and, as it seems to 
me, he was, as it were, instinctively only 
awaiting the inevitable final impulse for 
carrying out his intention. And the key to 
the understanding of Leo Nikolaevitch's 
spiritual state at the time is hidden in the 

78 



TOLSTOY'S GOING AWAY 79 

words with which he concluded the note in 
his diary concerning his departure : "I feel 
that I have saved myself, not as Leo Niko- 
laevitch, but have saved what at times at 
least to some small degree there is in me." 
These words are marvellous in their touching 
humility on the lips of a man whose soul 
was filled to overflowing and was the 
reflection of the highest principle, and at 
the same time remarkable from the light 
which they throw on the deeper motives 
of his departure. In these words one 
is conscious of the dread — under the con- 
ditions beginning to exist about him — of 
being deprived of the spiritual independence 
essential for the preservation of the in- 
violability of his " holy of holies " — ^the 
dread of being deprived of the possibility 
of resisting the ever-persisting attacks from 
outside — which might very naturally come 
to pass, considering Leo Nikolaevitch's ex- 
treme age and the gradual weakening of 
his physical powers. 

It must not be forgotten also that by this 
time he had become convinced of the com- 
plete uselessness, even undesirability, of his 
remaining longer with Sofya Andreyevna, 
and that therefore the various impulses to 
go away which he had before so scrupulously 



80 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

repressed in his soul were now set free. The 
painful consciousness of luxury and privilege 
in which his life was spent in the midst of 
the poverty around him, the yearning for 
peace and solitude before death, and many 
other causes began without hindrance to 
impel him in the same direction. 

Thus the cup was already fuU and only 
the last drop was lacking. And just at this 
time suddenly the new element in his wife's 
behaviour which provided that last impulse to 
departure was revealed to Leo Nikolaevitch. 

What was new to him was the sudden 
revelation of the atmosphere of lying and 
hypocrisy in which he saw himself entangled. 
He unexpectedly became the involuntary 
witness of how Sofya Andreyevna, when she 
thought he was asleep, secretly stole up to 
his papers, and of how, as soon as she found 
out that he was not asleep, she began again 
at once as though nothing were the matter, 
expressing solicitude for his health. His 
eyes were at once opened and he saw what 
had long been well known to his intimate 
friends, but what the remnant of confidence 
in and respect for his wife which were still 
preserved in his soul, forbade him even to 
admit in his thoughts : that is, that she was 
acting a farce with him. 



TOLSTOY'S GOING AWAY 81 

Together with this discovery everything 
was transformed for Leo Nikolaevitch, and 
indeed that was inevitable. It was of Uttle 
moment that the incident which opened his 
eyes may seem in itself not to be of much 
importance. For married people who have 
lived together fifty years the first incident 
which reveals hypocrisy in one of them is 
always of importance. This incident at 
once threw quite a new light for Leo Niko- 
laevitch on all that had passed between him 
and Sofya Andreyevna. Till that time he 
had supposed that he had to do with sincere 
egoism and ill-will, with open wilfulness and 
innate coarseness and with morbid abnor- 
mality. And meeting this with unvarying 
mildness, patience and love, he recognised 
that he was doing as he ought, and therefore 
felt an inner satisfaction. Now all this was 
turned upside down. In the past the position 
had been clear; before him was a definite 
evil which laid on him as definite a duty to 
meet the evil with good. Now he had to do 
with a sort of tangle in which there was so 
much falsity that it was impossible to make 
out where reality ended and deception began ; 
so that instead of his former satisfaction 
Leo Nikolaevitch suddenly felt the ambiguous 
position in which he found himself. So at 



82 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

least I explain to myself the extreme emotion 
which Leo Nikolaevitch felt at his final 
decision to go away. 

It is true that even before this he knew of 
Sofya Andreyevna's insincere behaviour. A 
month before he went away he wrote of Sofya 
Audrey evna in this diary : "I cannot get 
accustomed to regarding her words as the 
ravings of delirium. All my trouble comes 
from that. It is impossible to talk to her, 
because she does not recognise the obligation 
of truth nor of logic, nor of her own words, 
nor of conscience. It is awful. I am not 
speaking now of love for me, of which there is 
no trace. She does not want my love for her 
either; all she wants is that people should 
think that I love her, and that is so awfiil." 
{Diary, September 10, 1910.) Yet apparently 
Leo Nikolaevitch still had no idea of the degree 
of insincerity and deception of which Sofya 
Andreyevna was capable in her relations with 
him personally. But on that night he was 
involuntarily brought face to face with the 
manifestation of it, and he was the more 
revolted because he had hitherto so scrupu- 
lously striven in his soul to preserve some sort 
of trust in his wife. 

Finally, convinced that he was incapable 
of changing the spiritual condition of Sofya 



TOLSTOY'S GOING AWAY 83 

Andreyevna, he saw now that his presence at 
her side could only serve as a cause of offence 
for her, exciting the worst side of her nature. 
And so the former obstacles to his departure 
were removed from him, and his soul de- 
manded release from the unbefitting position 
in which he found himself. 

It is easy to understand that under such 
conditions the first serious occasion was 
sufficient to impel him to carry out his long- 
cherished intention, and he went away.^ 

^ I have heard — it is true, from very few persons, and 
those chiefly belonging to Leo Nikolaevitch's family — 
regret expressed that he did not die peaceably at 
Yasnaya Polyana in the midst of his family. The 
picture imagined by these people of the death-bed of 
Leo Nikolaevitch in the home of his ancestors, sur- 
rounded by all his family, and giving his blessing to 
his grief-stricken wife, may perhaps be very touching. 
But such a scene would in reality be impossible, since 
Sofya Andreyevna was in such a condition of mind 
that, apart from a simulated exaggeration of feeling 
and the basest preoccupation with the material heritage, 
nothing more would have happened than on previous 
occasions when Leo Nikolaevitch was taken with the 
attacks and fainting fits to which he was liable, and it 
would have been painful for him. We ought, on the 
contrary, to rejoice that circumstances gave Leo 
Nikolaevitch the chance of spending the last days 
of his life and the last hours of his consciousness in a 
quiet, genuine atmosphere, among intimate friends who 
truly loved and understood him, and who strenuously 
watched over his spiritual peace and did not pester him 
in those last minutes with any worldly cares or material 
considerations. In this I cannot but see an immense 
happiness and blessing for Leo Nikolaevitch. 



84 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

Some people lay stress on the spiritual pain which 
Sofya Andreyevna must have experienced when she 
learned that Leo Nikolaevitch had left her. There is 
no doubt that this pain must have been very severe, 
particularly at first. But one must not blame others 
for the sufferings which are the work of the sufferer 
himself. If my own negligence is the cause of a man 
slipping off the roof and falling on my head I cannot 
blame him for the bruises he has caused me by his fall. 
It is as unjust to blame Leo Nikolaevitch for the 
suffering caused to Sofya Andreyevna by his departure, 
which was provoked by herself. Moreover, sufferings 
which are the result of our own mistakes are often 
beneficial. So in this instance, if Sofya Andreyevna, 
toward the end of the life of Leo Nikolaevitch, ever 
displayed the faintest gleams of consciousness of the 
great wrong she had done him, it was only at the time 
of her heaviest suffering on account of his leaving her. 
And therefore one may regret the causes which called 
forth Leo Nikolaevitch's departure, but not that the 
emotional shock given Sofya Andreyevna by it opened 
her eyes, if only for a few instants, to the true signifi- 
cance of her behaviour to her husband. 

If it should seem strange to anyone that Leo 
Nikolaevitch, even after he had left home, so dreaded 
an interview with Sofya Andreyevna, that is only 
because the mental condition in which, as Leo 
Nikolaevitch well knew, she was at that time is too 
little known. When he left Yasnaya Polyana Leo 
Nikolaevitch firmly and unhesitatingly decided to cut 
himself off from his family, and therefore while he 
was still hoping to live independently, he naturally 
avoided interviews with Sofya Andreyevna, who would 
with all her energies, and without scruple as to the 
means employed, have hindered his reahsing his plan. 
When he was laid up at Astapavo and foresaw the 
possibility of death being at hand, it was just as natural 
that he should have felt the need of that spiritual 
tranquillity to which every dying man has a right. 
And that Sofya Asdreyevna's condition at that time 
really was such that she could have brought nothing 
to his death-bed but deception, vanity, material 



TOLSTOY'S GOING AWAY 85 

importunities, fuss and noise, that is well known by 
all who have had the opportunity of watching at close 
quarters her behaviour not only in all Leo Nikolae- 
vitch's serious illnesses in later years and during the 
last months of his life at Yasnaya Polyana, but also 
during the first days after he had gone away, and 
during her stay in his neighbourhood at Astapovo, 
and by his bedside during the last unconscious 
moments, and during the first hours after his death. 
Anyone who saw Sofya Andreyevna under all these 
conditions cannot but acknowledge that Leo Niko- 
laevitch showed great foresight in so persistently 
avoiding interviews with her while she was in that 
condition. A personal interview between them at 
that time could not only add nothing to what he had 
told her in his last letters, which were permeated with 
forgiveness, pity and love, but, judging from the 
mental condition in which Sofya Andreyevna still was, 
it could only have evoked in her a renewal too painful 
for him of the same insincerity, hypocrisy and im- 
portunities which had provoked his departure. 



CHAPTER X 

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TOLSTOY's GOING AWAY 

AND OF THE WHOLE SPIRITUAL ACHIEVEMENT 

OF HIS LIFE 

In an indirect way Leo Nikolaevitch's 
going away performed a great service in 
a social sense by manifesting clearly that 
his living beforehand for so long with his 
family was not due to the comforts of a rich 
man's life, nor to his weakness and lack of will 
where his wife was concerned. If circum- 
stances had so fallen out that he had not left 
his family up to the day of his death, the 
value of the great example of his life would 
not, of course, have been one jot less in 
reality. But it would have been hard for 
many to believe that there was not a con- 
siderable share of egoism or weakness of 
character in his living with his wife in the 
surroundings in which his family lived. His 
departure from it revealed openly to con- 
temporary and future generations that his 
life in Yasnaya Polyana really was surrounded 
by the most painful conditions. This event 
at once threw the true light on all that he 

86 



ACHIEVEMENT OF HIS LIFE 87 

must have suffered before that in his home 
surroundings, which many had been disposed 
to regard as peaceful and agreeable for him. 
Now it had become evident to all that Leo 
Nikolaevitch had remained with his family 
at Yasnaya Polyana for nearly thirty years 
after the whole manner of life had become 
distasteful and oppressive in the extreme 
for him, — and that he remained not at all 
because he wanted to enjoy the comfort 
of a wealthy landowner's life, nor because 
he was weak and wanting in will where his 
wife was concerned. Now it is easy to 
understand that during the whole of that 
time he was consciously sacrificing his prefer- 
ences and inclinations for the sake of doing 
what he regarded as his duty to God and 
his family. And such an example of self- 
sacrifice and consistency on the part of such 
a man as Tolstoy doubtless has a conspicuous 
social value. 

Many of the most various opinions have 
been expressed as to whether Tolstoy was 
right in leaving his family. To the friends 
of Leo Nikolaevitch who respected his soul 
and recognise the freedom of conscience 
and independence of human personality in all, 
the question in regard to Leo Nikolaevitch's 
going away is not whether he was right or 



88 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

wrong in taking that step. A man is really 
answerable not to the conscience of another, 
but only to his own. It is enough for us that 
it was not with a light heart that Leo 
Nikolaevitch came to his final decision to 
leave his wife. Once more I repeat that 
since he restrained himself for thirty years 
from going away, during the whole of that 
period patiently bearing the most poignant 
spiritual sufferings which often brought him 
to the verge of the grave, — and in the end he 
did die indeed from not having gone away 
sooner, — ^then surely we might do homage to 
the undoubted purity of his motives, and 
recognise that he had the right to decide 
the question in the end not in accordance with 
our views, but in accordance with his own 
judgment. 

I at least for my part — carefully calling up 
before my imagination all that I heard with 
my own ears from Leo Nikolaevitch himself, 
and what I saw with my own eyes, ampli- 
fying this with what he wrote in his diary 
and said in various writings and intimate 
letters, and finally collating all this with 
contemporary communications, diaries and 
notes of most intimate friends who were, 
just as I was, witnesses of the great drama 
of the last months of his life — I do not see the 



ACHIEVEMENT OF HIS LIFE 89 

possibility even from the most critical stand- 
point of seeing the slightest inconsistency 
in the fact that Leo Nikolaevitch remained 
so long with his wife and then thought it 
necessary to leave her. In this as in all 
else one can follow the inevitable, fully con- 
sistent and independent reaction of his inner 
life to external circumstances as they gradu- 
ally opened out before him and suddenly 
took definite shape towards the end. 

In all Leo Nikolaevitch's impulses and 
actions after the religious revolution which 
took place in him in the 'eighties, the same 
fundamental and guiding principle is all the 
time conspicuous; that is, the perpetual 
effort which persisted to the day of his death, 
to do not his own will nor the will of those 
surrounding him, but the will of God as he 
interpreted it according to his best under- 
standing. What more can we expect of a 
man? 

If some or other of Leo Nikolaevitch's 
actions during the last months of his life 
were not to the taste of some of his family, 
such, for instance, as his depriving them of 
the inheritance of his literary rights, his 
making a will without their knowledge and 
participation, his leaving his manuscripts 
and diaries to other people, and lastly his 



90 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

departing from amongst them; and if the 
material loss or their wounded vanity leads 
them mistakenly to ascribe all this to the 
supposed mental enfeeblement, the weakness 
of old age, and the fatal influence on him 
of the circle of his " followers," at least 
there is no necessity for people who are in no 
way personally affected to follow the example 
of those of Leo Nikolaevitch's family who 
consider themselves injured and repeat their 
unfair charges, which come in reality to this, 
that Leo Nikolaevitch at the end of his life 
was in his dotage and did a whole series of 
bad and stupid things. Some of Leo 
Nikolaevitch's family wrongly imagined that 
since he had remained with his family so 
long he had lost all freedom of choice, and 
ought not to have moved from the spot until 
his death, like a thing laid on a shelf which 
cannot move of its own initiative. Leo 
Nikolaevitch was not only a living man, 
but a man of exceptionally strong and active 
inner life, which was continually growing and 
developing and spurring him on to new 
external manifestations which were often 
a surprise to those who watched him. On 
all the important occasions of his life he 
always acted without following any pro- 
gramme imposed on him from outside, or 



ACHIEVEMENT OF HIS LIFE 91 

being affected by any personal influence ; he 
was independently guided only by the prompt- 
ing of his inner consciousness and entirely 
free from pose or any striving after effect. 
But at the same time he never drew back 
before the most extreme decisions when it 
was a question of obeying the dictates of his 
conscience. And so he had continually to 
do what was not foreseen or understood by 
others, and often not approved even by 
the majority of those about him. 

At one time people were enthusiastic over 
Tolstoy's creative genius, and thought that 
he would do nothing all his life but write 
novels for them. He brooded over the 
meaning of life, devoted himself to the service 
of God, and began to point out to men how 
godlessly they lived. Then they, struck by 
his inspired indictment of social life, expected 
that he would abandon his family and go 
about the world preaching like a prophet. 
But, manifesting love first of all to those 
nearest to him, and despising the censure of 
men, he remained almost thirty years with 
his wife and children under conditions most 
distressing for himself, hoping to be at least 
some little help in bringing them to a reason- 
able life. People became accustomed to 
the thought that old Tolstoy, physically 



92 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

weakened and professing the doctrine of non- 
resistance, would end his hfe at Yasnaya 
Polyana. But becoming convinced that 
being by his wife's side had in the end only 
become a stumbling-block to her and a re- 
striction on his own spiritual life, to the 
surprise of all he left Yasnaya Polyana, at 
eighty-two, with shattered health, in order 
to live amidst poor surroundings, near to the 
working people so dear to his heart. 

With Tolstoy everything was original and 
unexpected. The setting of his end was 
bound to be the same. Under the circum- 
stances in which he was placed, and with 
the marvellously delicate sensitiveness and 
responsiveness to impressions which distin- 
guished his exceptional nature, nothing else 
could or should have happened than just 
what did happen. There happened just what 
was in harmony with the external circum- 
stances and the inner spiritual characteristics 
of Leo Nikolaevitch Tolstoy and no other. 
Any other solution of his domestic relations, 
any other surroundings of his death, even 
though in harmony with a certain traditional 
pattern, would have been false and artificial. 
Leo Nikolaevitch went away and died with- 
out affected sentimentality and emotional 
phrases, without loud words and eloquent 



ACHIEVEMENT OF HIS LIFE 93 

gestures ; he went away and died as he had 
lived, truthfully, sincerely and simply ; and a 
better, truthful, more befitting end to his life 
could not be imagined, for just that end was 
the natural and inevitable one. 

As time erases all the personal element 
which has hitherto played so great a part 
in the criticisms of Leo Nikolaevitch, all the 
purity of his impulses and deep wisdom of 
his decisions in the most complicated and 
difficult circumstances which could fall to 
the lot of man will stand out before the eyes 
of men in all their force. And then his life, 
especially its second period, from his spiritual 
awakening to his death, will serve as a bright 
and an increasing example of how we ought 
and can, guided by the voice of God in our 
souls, combine in our actions the greatest 
warmth of heart and gentleness toward those 
who injure us with an unalterable firmness 
where fidelity to that higher principle which 
one serves is concerned. 

Telyatniki, 

May 15th, 1913. 
Moscow, 1920. 



PART III 

Tolstoy's attitude to his sufferings 

I THINK that to complete what has been 
said here about Tolstoy's " going away " it 
would be desirable to look rather more 
attentively at the growth of Leo Nikolae- 
vitch's inner consciousness in the course of 
the last decades of his life, and at that side 
of the development of his spiritual life which 
is connected with his attitude to suffering, 
in particular to his own sufferings arising 
from the conditions of his family life which 
have been examined in the present book. 

Let us listen first of all to Leo Nikolae- 
vitch's own words in regard to the thoughts 
and feelings he had to pass through in this 
connection. For this purpose we make use 
of his diary and private letters. Much 
precious material on this subject is contained 
in his diary for 1884, which he personally 
handed to me to take care of immediately 
after it was finished, and from which I will 
make the following extracts. This diary was 
kept by Leo Nikolaevitch just at that time 

94 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 95- 

when the great drama of his family life, 
which in the end brought him to the tomb, 
was taking shape. I venture to give pub- 
licity to the lines quoted below, written 
by Leo Nikolaevitch in the most difficult 
moments of his life, solely for the sake of 
removing those misunderstandings and false 
deductions which, as I have indicated before, 
have accumulated in such numbers since his 
death around the question of his " going 
away." I hope that the reader will under- 
stand my motives and will approach these 
private notes of Leo Nikolaevitch with the 
same feeling of reverence with which I 
reproduce them here. 

From the Diary of L. N. Tolstoy 
OF 1884. 

April 16. — It is very painful at home, 
painful that I cannot sympathise with them. 
AH their joys, examinations, successes in 
society, music, furniture; shopping, I look 
upon all of it as a misfortune and evil 
for them and cannot say that to them. I 
can and I do say it, but my words do not 
take hold of anyone. It seems as though 
they know not the meaning of my words, but 
that I have a bad habit of saying them. At 
weak moments— this is one now— I wonder at 



96 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

their heartlessness. How is it they do not 
see that, not to speak of suffering, I have 
had no life at all for these three years ? I 
am given the part of a peevish old man and I 
cannot get out of it in their eyes. If I take 
part in their life I am false to the truth, and 
they will be the first to throw that in my 
face. If I look mournfully now upon their 
madness, I am a peevish old man like all old 
men. 

April 23. — Shameful, disgusting. Terrible 
depression. I am all filled with weakness. 
I must as in a dream be on my guard so as 
not to spoil in the dream that which is 
needed for real life. I am drawn and drawn 
into the mire, and useless are my shudders. 
If only I am not drawn in without a pro- 
test ! There has been no spite, little vanity, 
or none at all, but of weakness, mortal weak- 
ness, these days are full. Longing for real 
death. There is no despair. But I would like 
to live and not to be on guard on one's life. 

April 24. — The same weakness and the same 
victorious mire sucking one in, drawing one 
down. 

April 26. — ^Must be happy in an unhappy 
life, must . . . make this the object of my 
life. And I can do it when I am strong in 
the spirit. 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 97 

May 15. — I am miserable. I am an insig- 
nificant, useless creature, and am absorbed 
in myself besides. The one good thing is 
that I want to die. 

May 16. — O Lord, save me from the hate- 
ful life which is crushing and destroying me. 
The one good thing is, I long to die. Better 
to die than live like this. 

May 17. — I dreamed that my wife loved 
me. How light my heart was, everything 
grew bright. Nothing like it in reality. 
And that is destroying my life. ... At 
home still the same general death. Only 
the little children are alive. A wearisome 
conversation at tea again. All one's life in 
terror. 

May 26. — I am as in a dream . . . when I 
know that a tiger is coming, and in a 
minute. . . . 

June 1. — Dullness, deadness of soul — that 
one could bear, but with it insolence, self- 
confidence . . . one must know how to bear 
that too, if not with love, with pity. I am 
irritable, gloomy all day. I am bad. . . . 
How to live here, how to break through 
pouring sand. I will try. 

June 2. — Conversation at tea with my wife. 
Angry again. Tried to write, it wouldn't 
go. . . . How be a shining light when I am 



98 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

still full of weakness which I have not the 
strength to overcome? 

June 4. — Thought a great deal about my 
wife. I must love her and not be angry 
with her, must make her love me; so I will 
do. 

June 6. — After dinner misery ... in the 
evening revived a little. Could not be 
loving as I would. I am very bad. 

June 7. — I am trying to be bright and 
happy, but it is very, very hard. Every- 
thing I do is wrong, and I suffer horribly 
from this wrongness. It is as though I alone 
were not mad in the house of the mad 
managed by the mad. 

June 9. — ^Agonising struggle, and I do not 
control myself. I look for the reasons — 
tobacco, incontinence, absence of imagina- 
tive work. It is all nonsense. The only 
cause is the absence of a loved and loving 
wife. It began from that time fourteen 
years ago when the cord snapped and I 
realised my loneliness.^ All that is not a 

1 To what precisely Leo Nikolaevitch ascribed his 
realisation that in 1870 the " cord had snapped " in 
the relations between him and his wife I am not in a 
position to state with certainty. I can only say for 
the information of the reader that I heard from Leo 
Nikolaevitch that their relations began to change 
for the worse from the time when Sofya Andreyevna, 
contrary to his principles and desire, refused to nurse 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 99 

reason. I must find a wife in her. I ought, 
and I can and I will : Lord, help me. 

June 10. — It is awful that the luxury, the 
corruption of life in which I live I have 
myself created, and I am myself corrupted 
and I cannot reform it. I can say that I 
shall reform myself, but so slowly. I cannot 
give up smoking, and I cannot find a way of 
treating my wife so as not to hurt her feel- 
ings and not to give in to her. I am seeking 
it, I am trying. 

June 16.' — It was very painful, longed to 
go away at once. All that is weakness. Not 
for men's sake but for God's. Do as one 
knows best for oneself and not in order to 
prove something. But it is awfully painful. 
Of course I am to blame if it hurts me. I 
struggle, I put out the rising fire, but I feel 
that it has violently bent the scales. And 
indeed what use am I to them, what use are 
all my sufferings ? And however hard (though 
they are easy) the conditions of a vagrant's 
life, there can be nothing in it like this 
heartache ! 

her second daughter Marya Lvovna, bom 1870, and 
engaged a wet nurse for her who was taken away 
from her own baby, 

^ It may interest the reader to know that on June 18 
Sofya Andreyevna gave birth to her youngest daughter, 
Alexandra. — Translator's note. 



100 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

June 23. — I am calmer, stronger in spirit. 
In the evening a cruel conversation about the 
Samara revenues.^ I am trying to act as 
though in the presence of God, and I cannot 
avoid anger. This must end. 

July 6. — I was reading over the diary of 
those days when I was seeking the cause of 
temptation. All nonsense — it is the absence 
of hard physical labour. ^ I do not suffi- 
ciently prize the happiness of freedom from 
temptation after work. That happiness is 
cheaply bought at the price of fatigue and 
aching muscles. 

July 5 (isn't it the 8th ?). — ^My wife is very 
serene and contented and does not see the 
gulf between us. I try to do what I ought, 
but what I ought I do not know. I must 
do as I ought every minute, and everything 
will turn out as it should. 

July 19. — She came in to me and began a 

^ At that period Leo Nikolaevitch's attitude of 
disapproval of property was beginning to take definite 
shape. In consequence he did not wish to make use 
of the revenues from his estate in Samara, consider- 
ing it unjust to make the peasants work for him and 
his family. Even the income which his family re- 
ceived from the Yasnaya Polyana estate and from the 
sale by Sofya Andreyevna of his works he considered 
as unjust, though he did not yet see clearly how he 
ought to act in the matter, considering his duties to 
his family. 

2 Compare entry for June 7. 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 101 

hysterical scene — ^the upshot of which is that 
nothing can be changed and she is unhappy 
and wants to run away somewhere. I was 
sorry for her, but at the same time I recog- 
nised that it was hopeless — to the day of my 
death she will be a millstone round my neck 
and my children's. I suppose it must be so. 
I must learn not to drown with a millstone 
round my neck. But the children? It 
seems it must be, and it only hurts me be- 
cause I am short-sighted. I soothed her as 
though she were ill. 

August 8. — I thought; we reproach God, 
we complain that we meet with obstacles in 
fulfilling the teaching of Christ. Well, but 
what if we were all free from families who 
disagree with us ? We should come together 
and live happily and joyfully. But the 
others? The others would not know. We 
want to gather ?ill the light together that it 
may burn better, but God has scattered the 
fire among the logs. They are being kindled 
while we fret that they are not burning. 

August 12. — It is all right with my wife, 
but I am afraid and straining every nerve. 

August 14. — Peace and friendliness with my 
wife, but I am afraid every minute. 

August 20.— -An outburst against me at 
dinner. . . . The sense of peace and welfare 



102 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

had got hold of the family. Every one 
depressed . . . painful conversation in the 
house. Sonya, feeling that she was to 
blame tried to justify herself by anger. I 
was sorry for her. 

August 21. — In the morning began a con- 
versation, hotly too but well. I said what 
ought to be said. ... I came home, Sonya 
was reconciled. How glad I was. Certainly 
if she would take to being good she would 
be very good. 

September 3. — Something touches them 
somehow . . . but I don't know how. 

September 7. — ^Went looking for mushrooms 
. . . my wife did not follow me but went 
off by herself not knowing where, only not 
after me — that is all our life. 

September 9. — It is pleasant being with my 
wife. Told her unpleasant truths and she 
was not angry. 

September 10. — Sonya tidied my room and 
then shouted disgustingly at Vlass. I am 
training myself to abstain from indignation 
and to see in it a moral bump which one 
must recognise as a fact and face its existence 
in one's action. 

September 15.— Went to look for mush- 
rooms. Miserable. 

September 17.— Talk in the morning. And 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 103 

sudden fury. Then she came to me and 
nagged until I was beside myself. I said 
nothing and did nothing, but I was very 
unhappy. She ran away in hysterics, I 
ran after her, horribly worried. 

After this diary of 1884 no diaries so far 
as I know were left by Leo Nikolaevitch 
for several years. Did he cease to keep 
his diary that he might not increase his 
spiritual sufferings by recording them on 
paper, preferring to continue his intense 
struggle with himself in complete solitude 
before no one but his God ? Did he keep 
a diary and afterwards himself destroy it, 
not wishing to reveal to anyone the sufferings 
to which he was subjected? Were the 
missing diaries lost in some other way, if 
indeed they ever existed? To these ques- 
tions there is no answer, and it is hardly 
likely there will be. 

By Leo Nikolaevitch's notes in his later 
diaries kept from the year 1888, one thing 
is placed beyond doubt, that is, that his 
spiritual sufferings and inward struggles 
in connection with his family relations con- 
tinued the whole of the rest of his life. And 
in this struggle his higher consciousness 
became brighter and brighter, his spiritual 



104 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

force grew and gained strength. As the 
years passed he gained an amazing mastery 
of his personal desires and weaknesses. 
At times, as indeed was inevitable, he recog- 
nised with peculiar pain his complete loneli- 
ness in the midst of the people surrounding 
him. To what degree he felt himself a 
stranger in his own family, how completely 
he was deprived of that warm, genuine sym- 
pathy on the part of his wife which is the 
most precious thing in married life, can to 
some extent be judged by the notes in which, 
with irrepressible grief, he recalls his mother. 

His attitude to her memory, as is well 
known, was always the most reverent. In 
his Recollections of Childhood he writes of her : 
" It was necessary for her to love not herself, 
and one love followed another. Such is the 
spiritual figure of my mother in my imagina- 
tion; she stood before me as such a lofty, 
pure, spiritual being that often in the middle 
period of my life, when I was struggling with 
temptations which almost overwhelmed me, I 
prayed to her soul, entreating her to help me, 
and this prayer was always a help to me." 

Leo Nikolaevitch sometimes invoked the 
holy image of his mother in his most difficult 
moments, even in his old age. In the 
beginning of 1900 he wrote on a scrap of 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 105 

paper, " Dull, miserable state the whole day. 
Towards evening this mood passed into 
tenderness — ^ desire for fondness, for love, 
longed as children do to press up to a loving, 
pitying creature and to weep with emotion 
and to be comforted. ^ But what creature 
is there to whom I could come close like that ? 
I go over all the people I have loved; not 
one is suitable to whom I can come close. 
If I could be little and snuggle up to my 
mother as I imagine her to myself ! Yes, 
yes, mother whom I called to when I could 
not speak, yes, she, my highest imagina- 
tion of pure love, — not cold, divine love, 
but earthly, warm, motherly. It is to that 
that my battered, weary soul is drawn. 
You, mother, you caress me. All this is 
senseless, but it is all true." 

On apparently the next day, calmly 
analysing the attack of misery he had passed 
through the day before, he wrote in his diary : 
" Yesterday particularly oppressed condition. 
Everything unpleasant felt with pecular 
vividness. So I say to myself, but in 
reality I seek what is unpleasant; I am 
receptive, absorbent to what is unpleasant. 
I could not get rid of this feeling anyhow. 
I have tried everything— prayer and the 
sense of my own badness — and nothing 



106 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

succeeds. Prayer, that is, vividly picturing 
my position does not reach to the depths 
of my consciousness; the recognition of 
my worthlessness, paltriness does not help. 
It is not that one wants something, but is 
miserably dissatisfied one does not know 
with what. It seems it is with life, one 
longs to die. Towards evening this con- 
dition passed into a feeling of forlornness 
and an overwhelming desire of fondling, 
of love ; I, an old man, longed to be a baby, 
to snuggle up to a loving creature, to be 
petted, to complain and to be fondled and 
comforted. But who is the being to whom 
I could snuggle up and on whose arms I 
could weep and complain? There is no 
one living. Then what is this? Still the 
same devil of egoism which in such a new, 
cunning form is trying to deceive and over- 
power me. This last feeling has explained 
to me the state of misery which preceded it. 
It is only the weakening, the temporary dis- 
appearance of spiritual life and the assertion 
of the claims of egoism which on awakening 
finds no food for itself and is miserable. 
The only means to use against it is to serve 
someone in the simplest way that comes first, 
to work for someone." — {Diary, March 11,. 
1906.) 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 107 

The complete absence in Leo Nikolaevitch 
of the shghtest sentimentality in regard 
to the spiritual sufferings which he had to 
endure was apparently connected with his 
lofty conception of Christ and the deep 
reverence he felt for his heroic life. In 
1885 Leo Nikolaevitch wrote : " Christ con- 
quered the world and saved it not by suffering 
for us, but by suffering with love and joy, 
i. e. by conquering suffering, and he taught 
us thereby." 

And indeed to the very last days and hours 
of his life Leo Nikolaevitch persistently 
and with striking success strove to train 
himself to " conquer suffering." In con- 
firmation of my words I quote a series of 
further extracts from his diaries and letters. 

June 15, 1889 (from a diary).—" I am 
burdened by life, I forget that if one has 
vital forces they can be used for the service 
of God, and that there is no getting away, 
there is no emptiness, everywhere there is 
contact, and in contact there is life. 

July 18, 1889 (from the letters).—" What 
do I want? To live with God, according to 
His will, with Him. What is wanted for 
that ? One thing only is wanted : to pre- 
serve the talent given to me, my soul, given 
to me not only to preserve but to make it 



108 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

grow. How make it grow? I know for 
myself what is needed; to keep what is 
animal in me in purity, what is human 
in humility, and what is divine in love. 
What is wanted for preserving purity ? Pri- 
vations, privations of every sort. Humility ? 
humiliation. Love? the hostility of men. 
Where and how am I to keep my purity 
without , privations, my humility without 
humiliation, and my love without hostility? 
' And if you love those that love you, that 
is not love, but love ye your enemies, love 
ye those that hate you.' One sorrow 
approaches humiliation and hostility, and 
these thoughts have revived me. Another 
sorrow is privation, suffering — the very thing 
that is needed for the growth of the soul. 
That is how one most look at it." 

July 18, 1889 (from the letters).^All our 
sorrows have one root, and, strange as it 
sounds, they all not only can, but ought, 
to be a blessing. . . . God grant that we 
may believe in the possibility of it — that 
is one thing; and the other is that we may 
not return in thought to our sorrow, in our 
imagination changing the conditions in which 
our sorrow has occurred and correcting our 
actions. " If we had done this or that this 
would not have happened." God preserve 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 109 

us from this mistake, with its painful conse- 
quences. What has been is, and what is 
was bound to have been, and all our vital 
force ought to be directed to the present, to 
bearing our cross in the best way possible. 

December, 1889 (from the letters). — The 
cross is given according to the strength. . . . 
I believe that, and cannot but believe it, 
because I know by experience that the 
harder my sufferings have been, if only I 
have succeeded in taking them in a Christian 
spirit . . . the fuller, more vivid, more joyful 
and full of meaning life has become. It is 
so often insincerely repeated that sufferings 
are good for us and are sent by God, that we 
have ceased to believe it, and yet it is the 
simplest, clearest and most indubitable truth. 
Suffering — what is called suffering — is the 
condition of spiritual growth. Without 
suffering growth is impossible, the widening 
of life is impossible. For this reason suffer- 
ings also always accompany death. If a 
man had no suffering he would be in a bad 
way ; that is why they say among the people 
that those whom God loves He visits by mis- 
fortunes. I understand that a man may be 
sad and apprehensive when misfortunes have 
not visited him for a long time. There is no 
movement, no growth of life. Suffering is only 



110 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

suffering for the heathen, for the man who 
has not the light of the truth, and for us in 
the measure in which we have not the Ught; 
but sufferings cease to be such for the Chris- 
tian—they become birth-pangs, even as 
Christ promised to deUver us from evil. 
And all this is not rhetoric, but is for me as 
undoubtedly in accordance with reason and 
experience as that it is now winter. 

1892-3 (from the letters).— Nothing, I 
imagine, sets a man free from dependence 
on others and brings him near, or rather may 
bring him near, to God so much as your 
position. One only leans upon Him when 
men compel one to. God help you to bear 
your cross patiently, submissively, so as to 
get from it all the good which external 
suffering gives and can give. Or it will be 
mortifying that there has been suffering, but 
struggling with it, indignant and despairing, 
you did not get from it all that it is capable of 
giving. 

May 17, 1893 (from the letters). — I am 
forced to live without personal, legitimate 
joys such as you have : labour, associations 
with animals, nature; without association 
(not poisoned by their corruption) with 
children; without the encouragement of 
public opinion. What has happened to me 
is not exactly that the praise of men has 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 111 

destroyed for me the attractiveness of their 
praise, but their praise has been tainted, 
has become poisoned. I cannot now desire 
the praise of men, fame among the crowd, 
because I have it and know how double-faced 
it is ; if there are some who praise, there are 
others who revile ; that praise of men which 
you have, the good opinion of estimable men 
for a good life, at least consistent with your 
convictions I cannot have. And on the top 
of all that this praise of men — the way they 
write abroad and the opinion is current, that 
I lead a modest, laborious life in poverty — 
that praise arraigns me every second as a 
liar, a scoundrel living in luxury, making 
money out of the sale of his books. If I 
think of the praise of men it is like a thief 
who is every minute afraid that he will be 
caught, so that I have not only to live without 
the stimulus of lawful joys, and not only 
without the praise of men, but even with the 
perpetual consciousness of the shamefulness 
of life ; I have to live by that which I consider 
men can and ought to live by; that is, by 
the consciousness of fulfilling the will of Him 
who sent us. And I see that I am still far 
from being ready for that, and am still only 
learning, and life is teaching me. And I 
ought to rejoice, and I do rejoice. 

February 28, 1894 (from the letters).— The 



112 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

longer I live and the nearer I am to death, 
the more certain to me is the injustice of our 
wealthy mode of life, and I cannot help 
suffering by it. 

March 27, 1895 (from a diary).— If there 
is suffering there has been and is egoism. 
Love does not know suffering, because the 
loving life is the divine life which can do all. 
Egoism is the limitation of personality. 

December 20, 1896 (from a diary). — Every- 
thing just as painful. Help me, O Father. 
Comfort me. Be strong in me, subdue me, 
drive out and destroy the unclean flesh and 
all that I feel through it. It is better now 
though. Particularly soothing is the prob- 
lem — the trial of meekness, of humiliation, 
of quite unexpected humiliation. In fetters, 
in prison one may be proud of humiliation, 
but in this case it is merely painful, unless one 
takes it as a trial sent from God. Yes, I will 
learn to bear it calmly, joyfully and to love. 

January 18, 1897 (from a diary).— De- 
pressing, disgusting. Everything repels me 
in the life they are living around me. Al- 
ternately I get free from misery and suffering 
and fall into it again. Nothing shows so 
clearly how far I am from what I want to be. 
If my life really were spent wholly in the 
service of God nothing could trouble it. 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 113 

April 4, 1907 (from a diary),— I have not 
lost my calm though my soul is agitated, 
but I am mastering it. O God ! if one could 
but remember that one is His messenger, 
that the divinity ought to shine through one ! 
But what is hard is that if one only remembers 
this, one will not live, and yet one must live, 
live energetically and remember. Help me O 
Father. I have prayed a great deal of late 
that life might be better, for I am ashamed 
and cast down by the consciousness of the 
unrighteousness of my life. 

July 12, 1897 (from the letters). — I under- 
stand your trouble and sympathise with all 
my heart. It is your examination, try not 
to fail in it. Remember that it is the one 
chance of applying your faith to life. I 
always strengthen myself with that in difficult 
moments, and sometimes with success. 

1897 (from the letters). — The doubts as to 
whether one makes concessions for the sake 
of not destroying love or for the sake of 
indulging in one's own weaknesses persist 
as ever, and the older I get, the more strongly 
I feel this sin, and I humble myself, but I do 
not submit, and I hope to rise up again. 

March 10, 1899 (from the letters).— It is 
very difficult and dreary and lonely for me 
and I am afraid of unpleasantness — of people 



114 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

being angry with me, and people are angry 
with me. 

November 29, 1901 (from a diary). — If you 
are suffering it is only from your not seeing 
everything (the time has not yet come). 
What is accomplished by those sufferings has 
not been revealed. 

January 31, 1903 (from the letters). — 
Sufferings are profitable just because a man 
in ordinary worldly life forgets the un- 
breakable bond which exists between all 
living creatures; the sufferings which he 
endures and of which he has been the cause 
to other people remind him of that bond. 
This bond is spiritual, seeing that the Son of 
God is one in all men; physical sufferings 
drive a man involuntarily into the spiritual 
sphere in which he feels in union with God 
and with the world, and in which he . . . 
bears the sufferings caused by others as 
though caused by himself, and even joyfully 
takes upon himself the burden of suffering, 
taking it from others. In that is the profit 
and fruitfulness of suffering. 

June 12, 1905 (from a diary).— More and 
more I am pained by my abundance and the 
want surrounding me. 

May 29, 1906 (from a diary).— I am very 
heavy-hearted with shame at my life, and 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 115 

what to do I don't know : Lord, help 
me. 

November 23, 1906 (from a diary).— In a 
very good spiritual state of love for all. 
Read the Epistle of St. John. Marvellous, 
only now I understand it fully. To-day 
there was a great temptation which I did not 
fully conquer. Abakumov overtook me with 
a petition and a complaint at having been 
sentenced to prison on account of the oak 
trees. It was very painful. He cannot 
understand that I, the husband, cannot do 
as I like, and looks on me as an evil-doer and 
a Pharisee hiding behind my wife. I had 
not the strength to bear it lovingly, said that 
I could not go on living here. And that was 
wrong. Altogether I am more and more 
abused on all hands; that's a good thing, it 
drives me to God — if I could only remain 
there. Altogether I am conscious of one of 
the greatest changes which has taken place 
in me just now. I feel this from my serenity 
and joyfulness and the good feeling (I dare 
not say love) for people. 

June 7, 1907 (from a diary).— My former 
ailment has passed, but a new one seems to 
be beginning. To-day I was very, very 
sad. I am ashamed to confess it, but I 
cannot call up joy. My soul is calm and 



116 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

grave, but not joyful. My sadness is chiefly 
due to the darkness in which people live 
so persistently. The exasperation of the 
peasants, our senseless luxury. Experienced 
the joy of being alone with God . . . 
sorrowful, sorrowful. Lord, help me, burn 
up the old fleshly man in me. Yes, the one 
consolation, the one salvation is to live in 
eternity and not in time. 

April 7, 1908 (from the letters). — One 
thing I can say, that the reasons which 
restrain me from changing my manner of 
life as you advise me, — ^though not changing 
it, is a source of misery to me — the reasons 
that hinder me have their origin in the 
same principles of love, in the name of 
which the change is desirable both for you 
and me. It is very probable that I do 
not know and am not capable, or simply 
there are bad qualities in me which prevent 
me from doing what you advise me. But 
what is to be done? With the utmost 
effort of my mind and heart I cannot find 
the means, and I should only be thankful 
to anyone who will point it out to me. I 
say this quite sincerely, without any irony. 

May 20, 1908 (from a diary).— My life is 
good in that I bear all the burden of a 
wealthy life which I detest— the sight of 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 117 

others labouring for me, the begging for 
help, the censure, the envy, the hatred, — 
and I do not enjoy its advantages, even that 
of loving what is done for me and helping 
those who ask. 

July 3, 1908 (from a diary). — The day 
before yesterday I received a letter full of 
upbraidings for my wealth and hypocrisy 
and persecution of the peasants, and, to 
my shame, it hurt me. To-day I have been 
sad and ashamed all day. Just now I went 
for a ride, and it seemed so desirable, so 
joyful to go away like a beggar, thanking 
and loving everyone. Yes, I am weak, I 
cannot perpetually live in my spiritual self, 
and as soon as one does not live in it, every- 
thing vexes one. One thing is good, that 
I am dissatisfied with myself and ashamed, 
but I must not be proud of it. 

July 9, 1908 (from a diary). — I have passed 
through very painful feelings; thank God 
that I have passed through them. An 
innumerable multitude of people, and all this 
would be joyful if it were not all poisoned 
by the consciousness of the senselessness, 
sinfulness, nastiness, luxury, servants, and 
poverty and overstrained intensity of labour 
around. Without ceasing I suffer misery 
from it, and I alone. I cannot help wishing 



118 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

for death, though I hope as far as I can to 
make use of what is left. 

January 12, 1909 (from a diary).— It grows 
more and more difficult. I do not know how 
to thank God that, together with the growing 
difficulty, the strength to endure it grows 
also. Together with the burden there is 
also the strength, and there is incomparably 
more joy from the consciousness of strength 
than pain from the burden. Yes, for His 
yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

May 6, 1907 (from the letters).— It is hard 
for you. God help you to bear your trial 
without reproaches to others and without 
infringement of love for them. It is always 
a great help to me, when anything is difficult, 
to think and to remember that it is the 
material — and necessary, good material — 
upon which I am called to work, and not 
before men but before God. 

July 21, 1909 (from a diary). — Last night 
Sonya has been weak and irritable. I could not 
go to sleep till after two o'clock. I woke up 
feeling weak, I was awakened. Sonya did 
not sleep all night. I went to her. It was 
something insane. " Dushan poisoned her," 
etc. I am tired and cannot stand it any 
more and feel quite ill. I feel I cannot be 
loving and reasonable, absolutely cannot. 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 119 

At present I want only to keep away and 
to take no part. There is nothing else I can 
do, or else I have seriously thought of escap- 
ing. Now then, show your Christianity. 
C^est le moment ou jamais. But I awfully 
want to go away. I doubt if my presence 
here is of any use to anyone. Help me, my 
God, teach me. There is only one thing I 
want — ^to do not my will, but Thine. I 
write and ask myself : Is it true ? Am I posing 
to myself? Help me, help me, help me ! 

July 22, 1909 (from a diary). — Yesterday 
I did not eat anything and did not sleep. 
As usual I felt very wretched. I am 
wretched now, but my heart is melted. 
Yes — ^to love those that do us evil, you say; 
will try it. I try, but badly. I think more 
and more of going away and making a settle- 
ment about property. ... I don't know 
what I shall do. Help, help, help ! This 
" help " means that I am weak, bad. It is 
a good thing that I am at any rate conscious 
of this. . . . 

July 26, 1909 (from a diary).— After dinner 
I spoke of Sweden; she became terribly, 
hysterically irritated. She wanted to 
poison herself with morphia. I tore it out 
of her hands and threw it under the stairs. 
I struggled. But when I went to bed and 



120 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

thought it over cahnly I decided not to go. 
I went and told her. She is pitiful; I am 
truly sorry for her. But how instructive it 
is ! I did nothing except inwardly work at 
myself. And as soon as I started on my 
own self, everything was solved. I have 
been ill all day. . . . 

August 28, 1909 (from a diary). — Dread- 
fully, dreadfully miserable and oppressed; 
depression partly produced by letter from 
Berlin, in reference to Sofya Audrey evna's 
letter and the article in the Petersburg News, 
saying that Tolstoy is a deceiver and a 
hypocrite. To my shame I did not rejoice 
at being reviled, but was hurt, and the 
whole evening was agonisingly depressed. 
Go away ? More and more often the question 
presents itself. 

August 29, 1909 (from a diary).— Painftil 
feeling and desire (a bad one?) to run away, 
and uncertainty what is my duty to God. 
In calm moments, as now, I know that what 
is necessary above all is to do nothing, to 
bear all, to remain in love. 

September 4, 1909 (from a diary).— The 
false judgment of men about me, the necessity 
for remaining in this position — however hard 
it all is, I begin at times to understand its 
beneficial effect on my soul. 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 121 

November 15, 1909 (from a diary).— The 
misery, almost despair, at my idle life in 
senseless luxury, in the midst of men who 
are overworked and deprived of the essentials, 
of the possibility of satisfying their first 
needs, keeps growing more intense. It is 
agonising to live like this, and I do not know 
how to help myself and them. In weak 
moments I long to die. Help me, O Father, 
to do Thy will up to the last minute. Medita- 
tion about myself which I am learning, and 
to which I am giving myself up more and 
more of late, has advanced me much, very 
much; but, as always, true progress in 
goodness . . . only reveals one's imperfec- 
tion more and more. 

January 8, 1910 (from the letters). — I live 
wrongly in wealth, though myself I have 
nothing, but with those who live in wealth. 

January 8, 1910 (from the letters). — If 
man grows weak he is weaker than water. 
If he grows strong he is stronger than rock. 
What strengthens me most in difficult 
moments is the sense that the very thing 
that is worrying one is the material on which 
we are called to work, and the material is the 
more precious the more difficult the moments. 

March 19, 1910 (from the letters).— In bad 
moments think that what is happening to 



122 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

you is the material on which you are called 
to work. To me at any rate this thought and 
the feeling evoked by it is a great help. 

April 13, 1910 (from a diary). — I woke at 
five and kept thinking how to get out, what 
to do, and I don't know. I thought of 
writing— and writing is loathsome while I 
remain in this life. Speak to her? Go 
away? Change? By degrees ... it seems 
as though the last is the only thing I shall 
and can do, and yet it is painful. Perhaps, 
certainly, indeed that is good. Help me. 
Thou Who art in me, in everything, and Who 
exists and Whom I implore and love. I am 
weeping now as I love. 

April 14, 1910 (from the letters).— You 
ask whether I like the life in which I find 
myself. No, I don't like it. I don't like 
it because I am living with my own people 
in IvLxury while there are poverty and want 
around me, and I cannot get away from the 
luxury, and I cannot help the poverty and 
want. For this I do not like my life. I 
like it in that it is in my power to act, and 
that I can act, and that I do act in the measure 
of my strength in accordance with the teach- 
ing of Christ, to love God and my neighbour. 
To love God means to love the perfection of 
goodness and to approach it as far as one 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 123 

can. To love one's neighbour is to love all 
people alike as one's brothers and sisters. 
It is this, and this alone, that I am striving 
for, and since, little by little, however poorly, 
I am approaching it I do not grieve, but 
only rejoice. You ask me too, if I rejoice, 
at what do I rejoice, and what joy do I 
expect? I rejoice that I can carry out to 
the measure of my strength the task set 
me by my Master; to work for the setting 
up of that Kingdom of God to which we are 
all striving. 

June 4, 1910 (from a diary).— I had a 
good ride; I came back and found the 
Circassian who was taking Prokofy. I was 
horribly distressed and thought of going 
away, and now at five in the morning I 
don't look on that as impossible. 

July 2, 1910 (from the letters).— All will 
be well if we do not grow weak. , . . Very 
painful, but the better for that. 

July 16, 1910 (from the letters).— I feel 
well ... a little weaker than usual, but 
still well. . . . Why, really when I am 
calm I actually feel that in all this there is 
more of good than bad, incomparably more. 
It is absurd even to compare the little 
unpleasantnesses, agitations, privations, and 
the sense of growing nearer to God. 



124 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

July 20, 1910 (from the letters). — I am 
grateful to you for having helped and helping 
me to bear the trial that I have deserved and 
that is needful for my soul. . . . And 
please do help us both not to grow weak and 
not to do anything of which we shall repent. 

July 29, 1910 (from the letters).— We will 
each of us try to act as we ought, and it will 
be all right. I am trying with all my might, 
and I feel that that is the only thing that 
matters. 

July 31, 1910 (from the letters).— If only 
we do not ourselves spoil things all will be 
as it ought to be— that is, well. 

August 7, 1910 (from the letters). — I am 
sorry for her, and she is undoubtedly more 
to be pitied than I, so that it would be wrong 
of me to increase her sufferings out of pity 
for myself. Though I am tired I am really 
all right. Ever nearer and nearer comes the 
revelation of the certainly blessed, fore- 
divined mystery, and getting near it cannot 
but rejoice me. 

August 9, 1910 (from the letters).— The 
nearer one is to death, or anyway the more 
vividly one thinks of it (and thinking of it 
is thinking of one's own true life which is 
independent of death), the more important 
the one needful work of life becomes, and 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 125 

the clearer it is that for the securing of that 
non-infringement of love with anyone, I 
must not undertake anything, but only do 
nothing. 

August 14, 1910, morning (from the letters). 
— I know that all this present particularly 
morbid state may seem affected, intentionally 
worked up (to some extent that is so), but 
the chief point is that it is anyway illness, 
perfectly obvious illness, that deprives her 
of will and self-control. If it is said that 
she is herself to blame for this relaxation of 
her will, for giving in to her egoism, which 
began long ago, the fault is of the past, of 
long ago. Now she is quite irresponsible 
and one can feel for her nothing but pity, 
and it is impossible, for me at any rate, 
utterly impossible, contrecourir (to run counter 
to) her, and so unmistakably increase her 
sufferings. I do not believe that the com- 
plete vindication of my decision opposed to 
her wishes would be good for her, and if 
I did believe it I still could not do that. 
Apart from the fact that I think that I 
ought to act in this way, the point is that I 
know from experience that when I insist, 
I am miserable, and when I give way I am 
not only light-hearted, I am even joyful. . . . 
I have been ill for the last few days, but 



126 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

to-day I am much better. And I am parti- 
cularly glad of it to-day, because there is 
anyway fewer chances of one's saying or 
doing wrong when one is physically well. 

August 14, 1910, evening (from the letters). 
— I agree that one ought not to make promises 
to anyone, and especially to a person in the 
state in which she is now, but I am bound 
now not by any promise, but simply by 
pity, by compassion, which I have been 
feeling particularly strongly to-day as I 
wrote to you. Her position is very painful, 
no one can see it and not sympathise with 
it. 

August 20, 1910; Kotchety. (From the 
letters.)— Without exaggeration I can say 
that I recognise that what has happened was 
inevitable, and therefore profitable for my 
soul. I think so at any rate in my better 
moments. 

August 25, 1910; Kotchety. (From the 
letters.) — Of myself I may say that I am 
very well here, even my health, which was 
affected too by agitation, is far better. I 
am trying to behave as justly and firmly as 
possible in regard to Sofya Andreyevna, and 
it seems as though I am more or less success- 
ful in my object of calming her. ... I am 
often terribly sorry for her. When one 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 127 

thinks what it must be for her lying awake 
alone at nights, for she gets no sleep for the 
greater part of the night, with a confused 
but painful consciousness that she is not 
loved, but is burdensome to everyone except 
the children, one cannot but pity her. 

August 28, 1910; Kotchety. (From the 
letters.) — ^Do not think that it is easy for me 
to advise the manly, serene and even joyful 
endurance of suffering because I do not 
myself experience it. Do not think that, 
because all men are liable to sufferings 
which may be regarded as objectless torments, 
or as trials, the mild and religious endurance 
of which may, strange as it sounds, be trans- 
muted to a greater spiritual blessing. We 
are all liable to these trials, and often to 
much harder ones than those which you are 
enduring. May God who lives in you help 
you to be conscious of yourself. And when 
there is that consciousness there is no suffer- 
ing and there is no death. 

August 30, 1910; Kotchety. (From the 
letters.) — Sofya Andreyevna went away from 
here yesterday, and took a very touching 
farewell of me and Tanya and her husband, 
with evident sincerity begging forgiveness 
of all with tears in her eyes. She is in- 
expressibly pathetic. What will happen 



128 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

later I cannot imagine. " Do what you 
ought before your conscience and God, and 
what will be will be," I say to myself and 
try to act on it. 

September 9, 1910; Kotchety. (From the 
letters.) — She was very much irritated, not 
irritated {ce n'est pas le mot, that is not the 
right word), but morbidly agitated. I under- 
line that word. She is unhappy and cannot 
control herself. I have only just been talking 
to her. She came thinking I should go away 
with her, but I have refused without fixing 
the date of my going away, and that greatly 
distressed her. What I shall do later I don't 
know. I shall try to bear my cross day by 
day. 

September 16, 1910 (from the letters). — 
I am still as before in a middling condition 
physically, and spiritually I try to look upon 
my painful or rather difficult relations with 
Sofya Andreyevna as a trial which is good 
for me, and which it depends upon myself 
to turn into a blessing, but I rarely succeed 
in this. One thing I can say : not in my 
brain but with my sides, as the peasants 
say, I have come to a clear understanding 
of the difference between resistance which is 
returning evil for evil, and the resistance of 
not giving way in those of one's actions which 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 129 

one recognises as one's duty to one's con- 
science and to God. I will try. 

September 18, 1910 (from the letters). — 
I understand now from experience that all 
that we call suffering is for our good. 

October 6, 1910 (from the letters). — She is 
ill and all the rest of it, but it is impossible 
not to pity her and not to be indulgent to her. 

October 17, 1910 (from the letters).— Yester- 
day was a very serious day. Others will 
describe the physical details to you, but I 
want to give you my own account from the 
inside. I pity and pity her, and rejoice 
that at times I love her without effort. It 
was so last night when she came in penitent 
and began seeing about warming my room, 
and in spite of her exhaustion and weakness 
pushed the shutters and screened the windows, 
taking pains and trouble about my . . . 
bodily comfort. What's to be done if there 
are people for whom, and I believe only 
for a time, the reality of spiritual life is 
unattainable. Yesterday evening I was 
almost on the point of going away to 
Kotchety, but now I am glad I did not go. 
To-day I feel physically weak, but serene in 
spirit. 

October 26, 1910 (from a diary). — It is very 
oppressive for me in this house of lunatics. 



130 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

October 26, 1910 (from the letters).— The 
third thing is not so much a thought as a 
feeUng, and a bad feeling — the desire to 
change my position. I feel something un- 
befitting, rather shameful, in my position. 
Sometimes I look upon it as I ought, as a 
blessing but sometimes I struggle against 
it and am revolted. . . . 

October 27, 1910 (from a diary). — It seems 
bad but is really good ; the oppressiveness of 
our relations keeps increasing, 

October 29, 1910 (from the letters).— I am 
waiting to see what will come of the family 
deliberation — I think, good. In any case, 
however, my return to my former life has 
become still more difficult — almost impossible, 
owing to the reproaches which will now be 
showered upon me, and the still smaller 
share of kindness which will be shown me. 
I cannot and will not enter into any sort of 
negotiations — ^what will be will be — only to 
sin as little as possible. ... I cannot boast 
of my physical and spiritual condition, they 
are both weak and shattered. I feel most 
of all sorry for her. If only that pity were 
quite free from an admixture of rancune 
(resentment), and that I cannot boast of. 

October 29, 1910 ; Optin Monastery. (From 
a diary.) — I have been much depressed all 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 131 

day and physically weak. ... As I came 
here I was thinking all the time on the road, 
of the way out of my and her position, and 
could not think of any way out of it, but yet 
there will be one whether one likes it or not ; 
it will come, and not be what one foresees. 
Yes, think only of how to avoid sin, and let 
come what will come. That is not my 
affair. I have taken up . . . the Circle of 
Reading, and, just now, reading Number 
Twenty-eight was struck by the direct 
answer to my position : trial is what I need, 
it is beneficial for me. I am going to bed 
at once. Help me, O Lord. 

November 3, 1910; Station Astapovo. 
(From a diary; the last words written by 
Leo Nikolaevitch in his diary.) — Fais ce que 
doit adv. . . -^ And it is all for the best 
both for others and for me. 

The extracts from the diary and letters of 
Tolstoy that have been quoted, though far 
from exhausting all the material, show 
sufficiently clearly what Leo Nikolaevitch 
had to endure in connection with his family 
and domestic conditions in the course of the 
last thirty years of his life. In it of course 
all aspects of his spiritual growth are not 

^ An unfinished French proverb; translated in full 
it means, " Do what you ought and let come what ml^y." 



132 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

touched upon, the whole course of his inner 
development during that period is not ex- 
plained. But what is revealed to us in these 
extracts is sufficient to excite the warmest 
sympathy for Leo Nikolaevitch in his great 
and prolonged ordeal, and to inspire the 
deepest respect for his touching ability to 
blame himself for everything, and always to 
strive not towards what he desired but 
towards his duty. At the same time there is 
here revealed to us in its general features 
the path by which he came to the conviction 
that if we suffer spiritually we are ourselves 
to blame. 

As is the case with everyone for whom the 
true meaning of life is revealed, after Leo 
Nikolaevitch' s inner awakening at the be- 
ginning of the 'eighties, his spiritual con- 
sciousness could not, of course, remain at 
the same point. And indeed from the frag- 
ments we have quoted we see that up to the 
very last days of his life it was growing and 
becoming more perfect, as he became more 
and more penetrated with purity and 
strength. 

Becoming convinced that in spite of all 
his sufferings he could not draw his wife to 
take part in his efforts, Leo Nikolaevitch 
began to experience the most agonising 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 133 

distress, which, as we see from his diary of 
1884, sometimes became so acute that he 
hardly had the strength to endure it. He 
even had moments almost of despair and as 
it were revolt against his fate, especially 
when he learned from experience that his 
wife was too far away from him spiritually 
to be his companion in the reorganisation of 
their lives. It was at such a moment that 
there broke from him that agonising cry of a 
tortured heart, that she would for ever remain 
a millstone round his neck and his children's. 
But at the same time he tried to accept 
these sufferings with meekness and submis- 
sion as a trial laid upon him, and to behave 
with love and patience to her who evoked 
them. So about the same time, on one of 
those exceptionally rare occasions when in 
conversation with me he permitted himself 
to touch on his relations with his wife, he 
spoke approximately as follows : 

"It is impossible to blame Sofya Andrey- 
evna. It is not her fault that she does not 
follow me. Why, what she clings to so 
obstinately now is the very thing in which I 
trained her for many years. Apart from 
that, in the early days of my awakening I 
was too irritable and insisted on trying to 
convince her that I was right. In those 



134 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

days I put my new conception of life before 
her in a form so repellent and unacceptable 
to her that I quite put her off. And now I 
feel that through my own fault she can never 
come to the truth by my way. That door 
is closed for her. But, on the other hand, I 
notice with joy that by ways peculiar to her 
alone, and quite incomprehensible to me, 
she seems at times to be gradually moving 
in the same direction." 

About the same time Leo Nikolaevitch 
wrote to me : 

" ' He who loves not his brother, he 
dwelleth in death.' I have learned, but to 
my cost. I did not love, I had malice against 
my neighbours, and I was dying and dead. 
I began to be afraid of death; not afraid 
exactly, but bewildered before it. But love 
had but to rise up and I rose up again. I 
had forgotten Christ's first precept, ' Be not 
wrathful.' So simple, so small and so im- 
mense ! If there is one man whom one 
idoes not love one is lost, one is dead. I 
have learned that by experience." — (Letter, 
December 28, 1885.) 

At that period of his life Leo Nikolaevitch 
wrote in his diary the reflection which has 
already appeared in print concerning the 
chloroform of love, which expresses with 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 135 

remarkable vividness his recognition of the 
way we ought to help men who have gone 
astray : "At first I thought, Can one point 
out to people their mistakes, their sins, their 
faults, without hurting them? We have 
chloroform and cocaine for physical pain, 
but not for the soul. I thought this, and at 
once it came into my head, it is untrue — 
there is such a spiritual chloroform. They 
perform the operation of amputating a leg 
or an arm with chloroform, but they perform 
the operation of reforming a man painfully, 
stifling the reform with pain, exciting the 
worse disease — ^vindictiveness. But there is 
a spiritual chloroform, and it has long been 
known, — always the same — ^love. And that 
is not all : in physical disease one may do 
good by an operation without chloroform, 
but the soul is such a sensitive creature that 
an operation performed upon it without thp 
chloroform of love is never anything but 
injurious. Patients always know it and ask 
for chloroform, and know that it ought to 
be used. . . . The sick man is in pain and 
he screams, hides the sore spot and says, 
' You won't heal me, you won't heal me, 
and I don't want to be healed, I would 
rather get worse if you cannot heal me 
without pain. . . .' And he is right . . . 



136 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

you cannot drag a man straight out when he 
is tangled in a net — ^you will hurt him. You 
must disentangle the netting gently and 
firmly first. This delay, this disentangling, 
is the chloroform of love. . . . This I almost 
understood before, now I quite understand 
and begin to feel it. . . ." 

(Tolstoy's diary, January 25, 1889. Cf. 
Biography of L. N. Tolstoy by P. I. Bir3aikov, 
Vol. HI. chap, iii.) 

Striving to work out in himself a patient 
and loving attitude to the erring, beginning 
with those who were nearest to him, Leo 
Nikolaevitch from the earliest days of his 
domestic ordeal applied all his spiritual forces 
to avoiding giving way to his spiritual 
sufferings and throwing the blame for them 
either on people or on external circum- 
stances. And this consciousness was con- 
tinually strengthened and confirmed in him, 
helping him to bestow less and less pity on 
himself and more and more pity on those at 
whose hands he suffered. At first, as we 
have seen, such resignation to destiny was 
attained only with the greatest spiritual 
effort; but gradually he succeeded in con- 
quering himself more and more by means of 
this incessant struggle carried on for miany 
years. Such, anyway, is, it seems to me, 



ATTITUDE TO HIS SUFFERINGS 137 

the general deduction which may be drawn 
from his diary and letters. This deduction 
is confirmed too by the immediate impression 
which many of those to whose lot it fell to 
be in close relations with Leo Nikolaevitch 
in his later years carried away from personal 
intercoiu-se with him. Even the expression 
of his face during this last period often seemed 
lighted up with a peculiar spiritual radiance. 
Such in its most general features is my 
conception of the consistent growth of Leo 
Nikolaevitch's inner consciousness after 
his spiritual awakening in so far as that 
growth is connected with his domestic suffer- 
ings and going away from home. This con- 
ception has been formed, on the one hand, 
on the basis of my personal intimacy and 
my spiritual unity with Leo Nikolaevitch as 
well as my long, intimate acquaintance with 
his family; and, on the other hand, on an 
attentive study of all that Leo Nikolaevitch 
has at various times expressed in his letters. 
But the secret of another man's soul is 
too great and too intricate for anyone to be 
able to assert with confidence that he has 
fully grasped it even on any one side. And 
therefore while expressing here my personal 
opinion so far as it can have significance for 
anyone, I feel great satisfaction in the fact 



138 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

that I have been able to a considerable extent 
to incorporate Leo Nikolaevitch's own words 
in this book. And thus it will be possible 
for the reader to draw his own conclusions; 
at least from those notes of Leo Nikolae- 
vitch's which I have here brought into con- 
nection with my argument, and to correct 
for himself anything in which it may seem 
to him that I am mistaken, I should like 
to conclude with two more thoughts of Leo 
Nikolaevitch's which show his comprehension 
of the spiritual significance of suffering, 

" For a man living a spiritual life suffering 
is always an encouragement to becoming 
more perfect and more enlightened, and 
getting nearer to God. For such people 
suffering can always be transformed into the 
business of life." — {Circle of Reading.) 

" The cross that is laid upon us is that at 
which we ought to work. Our whole life is 
this work. If the cross is illness, then bear 
it well, with submission; if it is injury at 
the hands of men, know how to return good 
for evil; if it is humiliation, be meek; if it 
is death, accept it with gratitude." — {The 
Way of Life.) 



APPENDIX I 

In view of the fact that Leo Nikolaevitch's 
diaries and letters have not yet been pub- 
lished in their entirety, I think it essential 
to make a note in connection with the char- 
acter of the extracts which I have made from 
them in this book. These passages have been 
selected with the special object of illustrat- 
ing Leo Nikolaevitch's attitude to suffering 
in general and to his own sufferings in 
particular. Owing to this, their context 
is inevitably one-sided and cannot give a 
general idea of his prevailing spiritual mood 
during the last thirty years of his life. That 
general mood, in spite of the conditions 
which oppressed Leo Nikolaevitch externally, 
was doubtless one of joy in life, in accordance 
with the characteristics of his nature, and 
filled with inner satisfaction, as all those who 
were in close communication with him for any 
length of time during that period can testify. 
And in this fact, i. e. in his preserving those 
characteristics in spite of all the trials to 
which he was subjected throughout that 
whole period, I see one of the most remark- 
able aspects of his heroic endurance. 

139 



140 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

Indeed one has but for one moment to 
enter in spirit into his position at that time 
to be truly amazed at what he succeeded in 
attaining in his inner life. Love for freedom 
in general and for personal independence 
was to an exceptional degree characteristic of 
his powerful personality. The demands of 
creative work attracted him to prolonged 
absences far from home in the midst of the 
most varied natural scenery, and the most 
different strata of humanity. The working 
of his mind after his spiritual awakening 
required the closest association with working 
people. For the satisfaction of his spiritual 
needs he required the possibility of receiving 
unhindered in his house all and each of those 
with whom he would have liked to hold inter- 
course, without any limitation or restric- 
tion, and consequently to show hospitality, 
to seat at his table on occasions, to put 
up for the night both the peasant of the 
district who had come to pay him a visit, 
and the passing pilgrim weary from the road, 
and the visitor who had come from afar 
seeking spiritual intercourse and help. . . . 
And of all this so needful to Tolstoy as artist 
and thinker, and above all as a man leading 
a spiritual life,— of all this he was deprived, 
thanks to the egoism of his family and the 
class prejudices ruling in his house, in which 



APPENDIX I 141 

a woman's self-will was paramount. Being 
completely indifferent to his spiritual needs 
and callous to his sufferings, Sofya Andrey- 
evna expected him in his old age, as in the 
first period of their life, to be continually at 
her side in spite of the spiritual change that 
had taken place in her husband, and only 
rarely agreed to his being absent for short 
intervals, and then with the greatest diffi- 
culty, Leo Nikolaevitch coidd not refuse 
these demands of hers without destroying 
the very small share of domestic peace with- 
out which his life in the home would have 
lost any sort of meaning. And in spite of 
all the oppressiveness of these domestic con- 
ditions, which defy description in words and, 
lasting as they did over thirty years, for us 
ordinary people would have been truly 
shattering, Leo Nikolaevitch, far from giving 
way to despair, did not even complain of his 
fate. On the contrary, he blamed himself 
for his sufferings, ascribing them to his own 
imperfection, and making the utmost effort 
to perform his family duties as irreproachably 
as possible. " I am all right, quite all 
right," he often said and wrote to his friends. 
At times he even displayed a childlike gaiety^ 
and sometimes jested at the very circum- 
stances which caused him the most suffering. 
This remarkable circumstance I explain 



142 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

solely by the fact that Leo Nikolaevitch 
firmly made it his aim to do nothing but the 
will of God, This, and only this, he set 
before him as his fundamental task, and for 
the sake of carrying it out he consciously 
denied himself the satisfaction of his personal 
needs and any self-gratification during the 
whole of that second long period of his 
married life. And denying himself all the 
so-called joys of life, he incidentally attained 
true spiritual joy and peace, true blessedness. 
The subject of Leo Nikolaevitch's inner 
life is, however, outside the limits of our 
present investigation and I have referred to 
it only that the reader might not receive a 
quite mistaken impression that Leo Nikolae- 
vitch was lacking in that comrageous joy in 
life affecting all around him, which, on the 
contrary, he possessed in the highest degree.^ 

^ As I am touching upon the general mood of Leo 
Nikolaevitch's spiritual life, I foresee that the extracts 
I have made from his diaries and letters will in many 
readers arouse a feeling of regret that they have 
hitherto not had the opportunity of reading this 
precious material in its entirety. And therefore I 
think it needful to state that the principal obstacles 
to the continuation of the series of issues of Tolstoy's 
diaries, begun several years ago, and to the systematic 
publication of all his writings, are now happily over- 
come, and the first complete edition of all Tolstoy's 
works is at the present time being zealously prepared 
for the press. 



APPENDIX II 

The personality of Leo Nikolaevitch's wife, 
Sofya Andreyevna, is connected in the closest 
way with the account I have given of his 
leaving home. I have consequently been 
compelled to touch upon her relations with 
her husband. While describing the agonising 
sufferings to which Leo Nikolaevitch was 
subjected in his family circle, I have to my 
regret been forced to state a great deal which 
appears as an attack upon the character and 
behaviour of his wife. And therefore, to 
prevent any misunderstandings on the part 
of readers with regard to my personal 
relations with her, I wish to speak out openly 
upon the subject. 

It would perhaps have been natural for 
me, as a friend of Leo Nikolaevitch's, to feel 
bitterness and hostility towards the person 
who had been for him such a heavy 
cross during the last thirty years of his life. 
And it would be natural for the reader to 
suppose that under the influence of such 
feelings I could not be free from prejudice in 
regard to Sofya Andreyevna, and could not 

143 



144 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

help, even against my will, laying the colour 
on thick in describing her deficiencies. There 
will no doubt be ill-wishers who will say 
that, moved by resentment, I find a satis- 
faction in laying bare in an exaggerated form 
the mistakes and failings of a person who 
caused me much suffering. But in spite of 
the naturalness of such suppositions, they 
would in the present case be mistaken. In 
reality my attitude to Leo Nikolaevitch's 
wife is quite different. 

First of all, as in Leo Nikolaevitch's lifetime 
I never forgot, so after the death of both of 
them I never can forget, that Sofya Andrey- 
evna was his wife, *. e. occupied quite an 
exceptional position in regard to him, and 
for the first half of their life together was 
the person nearest to him in the world. This 
circumstance alone has inspired, and still 
inspires, a peculiar strictness toward myself 
in my behaviour to her and circumspection 
in my judgments of her. Moreover, having 
been a close witness of the wonderfully loving 
solicitude with which Leo Nikolaevitch be- 
haved to his wife, never losing hope of the 
possibility of her spiritual awakening, I could 
not on my side help being infected by this 
attitude, at least so far as not to feel ill-will 
or prejudice against her. 



APPENDIX II 145 

Apart from that, I do not on principle 
acknowledge a man's right to judge another. 
The character and behaviour of this or the 
other person depends on so many external 
and internal circumstances for which the 
person is not in the least responsible; and 
the most secret region in our inner con- 
sciousness, in which we really are answerable 
to our own conscience, is so entirely beyond 
the reach of any outside eye that we have 
neither the power nor the right to judge any 
but ourselves. In relation to anyone else 
we can judge only their actions, laying com- 
pletely aside, as not within our competence, 
the question of the degree of their responsi- 
bility for committing them. With this point 
of view every censure, irritation, or vexation 
with anyone, to say nothing of wrath or 
revenge, appears merely as the sign of our 
own imperfection, against which, when looked 
upon as such, it is easier to struggle than 
when such feelings are regarded as legiti- 
mate. 

In view of these two circumstances, though 
I have, willy-nilly, in the present work to 
exhibit Sofya Andreyevna in an unfavourable 
light, I have not done so from personal 
ill-will to her, nor in a spirit of censure, but 
simply through the necessity of giving a 



146 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

faithful picture of what Leo Nikolaevitch 
had to endure. 

I know that many will fail to understand 
my true motives and will severely censure 
me. I resign myself to this in advance. But 
I confess it grieves me, grieves me deeply, 
that by this present book I shall be bound 
to cause pain to those members of Leo 
Nikolaevitch's family who are still alive and 
who are nearest to him — ^his children. An 
old friend of their father's, I have always 
been conscious of being a friend of the family 
as well, and I naturally attach particular 
value to good relations with them. If they 
feel bitter against me, I beg them to believe 
that, whether mistakenly or not, I have, in 
any case, sincerely felt myself morally bound 
to act in the way I have acted, for reasons 
set forth in the Introduction. I beg them 
also to consider that the present publication 
of the truth I knew about their father's 
family life was, so to speak, forcibly wrung 
from me by all the untruths on the subject 
which for many years were persistently 
circulated all over the world, both in speak- 
ing and writing, by their own mother and 
their two brothers, Ilya Lvovitch and Leo 
Lvovitch. These two made it a kind of 
profession to give public lectures on the 



APPENDIX II 147 

subject. Quite recently I came across, in 
one of the most popular foreign newspapers, 
the Paris Figaro, a series of articles by Leo 
Lvovitch Tolstoy in which he strives to cover 
the memory of his father with shame and 
ignominy, in contradistinction to that of his 
mother, whose image he idealises till it 
becomes utterly distorted. He is so careless 
with the facts that, under the influence of 
his notorious envy and enmity for his father, 
he tells absolute untruths about him and 
definitely slanders him, though perhaps with- 
out meaning to do so. Such pernicious 
attacks upon Leo Nikolaevitch made in the 
world's Press by some of his nearest relatives 
give me reason to hope that his other relatives 
will not be surprised when they find, as 
their father's champion upon the same arena, 
one of his most intimate friends, who is able 
to speak more freely concerning the relations 
between their parents than those who are 
naturally constrained by the bonds of blood 
relationship. 

It goes without saying that Sofya Andrey- 
evna, like everyone else, had her virtues 
and her defects, but at the same time it will 
be readily understood that if Leo Nikolaevitch 
was reduced to the necessity of leaving her, 
it was not her good qualities which drove 



148 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

him to it. And therefore, in describing 
the causes of his departure, I have inevitably- 
been forced to dwell upon the negative sides 
of her character. 

In this brief narrative exclusively devoted 
to one definite event in the life of 
Leo Nikolaevitch and the internal and exter- 
nal circumstances connected with that event, 
I have not made it my aim to draw a general 
and complete picture of the characters of 
Leo Nikolaevitch and Sofya Andreyevna. 
The limited range of my special task laid 
upon me the necessity of keeping strictly 
within the limits of those of their character- 
istics and peculiarities which in one way or 
another threw a direct light upon the incident 
described. There could be no question of 
an all-round and to any extent exhaustive 
account of the characters of those persons, 
apart from the fact that such" a task is far 
beyond my capacity. The most important 
and perhaps the most difficult aspect of the 
task which actually lay before me consisted 
in exhibiting in their full force the circum- 
stances which in the end compelled Leo 
Nikolaevitch to take his final step, with 
perfect truthfulness, exaggerating nothing, 
of course, but at the same time concealing 
nothing from false delicacy. This I have 



APPENDIX II 149 

tried to do as conscientiously, carefully and 
truthfully as I can. Though I might from 
the natural perhaps, but in the present case 
misplaced, sensibility have smoothed over 
the extremes of Sofya Andreyevna's behav- 
iour, and have softened the real character 
of her attitude to Leo Nikolaevitch, yet in 
doing that I should have deprived the motives 
of his departure of reasonable basis and 
inevitability, and should have set forth Leo 
Nikolaevitch's impulses in a more or less 
distorted form— and that, of course, was 
inadmissible. 

Even in the lifetime of Sofya Andreyevna 
Tolstoy I did at one time entertain the idea 
of publishing the truth about Leo Nikolae- 
vitch's leaving home in her interests. I 
cherished the hope that from such a truthful 
account she might derive some conception 
of how much Leo Nikolaevitch suffered at 
her hands, how he struggled with him- 
self, how self-sacrificingly he returned her 
good for evil, how persistently, in spite of 
everything, he believed in the divine spark 
in her soul, and how he rejoiced and was 
touched at the slightest gleam of that spark. 
And who knows, I said to myself, perhaps 
such a presentation before her eyes of what 
really happened, in contradistinction to the 



150 THE LAST DAYS OF TOLSTOY 

fantastic inventions with which she screened 
the truth from herself— perhaps this truthful 
picture of what Leo Nikolaevitch really 
did endure, might help her in time to recog- 
nise the truth, to come to herself, and to 
become one in soul with him who loved her 
so that he laid down his soul for her ? 

But at the time I did not decide to do this, 
and now I do not regret it. Apart from any 
external influences, there is no doubt that 
after Leo Nikolaevitch's death there ap- 
peared at times a certain inner softening in 
Sofya Andreyevna, though only of brief 
duration. So it was, for instance, imme- 
diately after his death, when, in the presence 
of several persons, she repeated in spiritual 
agonies that she had been the cause of his 
death. And though a prolonged period 
followed after it during which she displayed, 
at least in words, her former indifference or 
even hostility to Leo Nikolaevitch, yet 
before her own death, as those near her 
relate, she again expressed regret for the 
wrong she had done him. And if outwardly 
she repented but little, yet who can say 
what were her thoughts and reflections in 
her soul, and especially what passed in her 
consciousness during those dying hours and 
minutes when man, cut off from commimica- 
tion with those aroxmd him, in complete 



APPENDIX II 151 

solitude before his Maker, knows that he is 
departing this life ? 

And though as she left this world Sofya 
Andreyevna carried with her the answer 
to this question, nevertheless we have no 
grounds for denying the possibility that the 
cherished hope which Leo Nikolaevitch never 
lost, that sooner or later she would be one 
with him in spirit, was realised at last before 
her death. Let us, too, look with a spirit 
of love and compassion upon the errors, the 
defects and the spiritual limitations of the 
companion of Leo Nikolaevitch's life. But at 
the same time let us boldly look the truth in 
the face, in no way softening the magnitude 
of the sufferings endured by Leo Nikolaevitch 
by concealing the true attitude of his wife 
to him, or by depicting her behaviour in a 
softened light. If we keep in mind the great 
divine love with which he loved her soul, 
then in face of the naked truth we shall 
not condemn, but shall sincerely compas- 
sionate, her whose destiny it was to serve 
as the instrument of his severest trials. 
And we shall understand that those trials 
which in the end exhausted Leo Nikolaevitch's 
physical forces and brought about his death 
were obviously needful to the manifestations 
in him of the fullness of spiritual strength 
received from him by God. 



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